Photo Credit: Flash 90
Medical technicians test passengers for COVID-19 at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on March 8, 2021.

Israel is expanding its travel ban “red list” – the list of countries where Israelis are banned by the government from traveling – as transmission of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, and the number of Delta variant cases, surge in these nations.

On Wednesday, Israel’s Health Ministry recommended adding one of the country’s newest allies – the United Arab Emirates – to the list, along with France, Spain, Norway, Finland, Ireland and Sweden.

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Anyone returning to Israel from these countries will be required to enter quarantine for a minimum seven days.

The existing list of banned designations is already quite long; it includes the United Kingdom and Denmark, in addition to 50 African nations.

In the UK (Britain), Omicron cases rose by 4,671 in a 24-hour period, according to the country’s Health Security Agency – an 87 percent jump in one day. There are more than 10,000 cases of the variant in Britain, out of a population of more than 56 million (56.223 million as of July 1, 2021).

A country is added to the Red List upon a report than 10 percent or more of its new COVID-19 cases are due to the Omicron variant, if more than five out of every 10,000 travelers to Israel from that country test positive for Omicron, or if that country is geographically close to a nation meeting the criteria.

At present, any country in the world not designated on the Red List is now labeled “orange,” according to the Health Ministry, which said at present there are no yellow countries.

The United States, Turkey, Morocco, Canada, Hungary, Portugal and Canada could be next to be placed on the Red List, The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday night.

Vaccinated Israelis returning from orange countries are required to undergo a PCR test prior to boarding the flight, a second PCR test upon landing at Ben Gurion International Airport, and a third PCR test three days later. Quarantine ends if the third PCR test is negative (assuming the first two were negative as well).

The Health Ministry reported Wednesday that close to 90 people have been diagnosed with Omicron, with at least 150 more suspected of being infected with the variant. The number of serious cases of the coronavirus, however, is slowly but steadily dropping.

There were 673 new cases of COVID-19 reported for Tuesday (Dec. 14), with a total of 97,750 people diagnosed with the virus in Israel. As of Wednesday, 84 coronavirus patients were listed in serious and critical condition; of those, 46 patients required respirators to survive. Israel has lost 8,224 people to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.