Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy quashed the last hopes of Israelis hoping to travel abroad declaring that all countries are now "red" including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which had just opened up to Israelis for the first time in history after signing the Abraham Accords normalization agreement with Israel in September. In November Israel even signed a visa-free travel agreement with the UAE, the first with an Arab country.
Red refers to high levels of coronavirus infections. The UAE, as well as the Seychelles and Rwanda, were designated as “green countries,” attracting visitors from Israel who were not required to quarantine for two weeks upon their return to the Jewish State.
However, as COVID-19 numbers are once again rising in Israel and alarmingly high numbers of the newly infected having recently returned from these trips to “green” countries, Levy decided that the loophole needed to be closed. Large crowds at the incoming and outgoing gates at Ben-Gurion Airport showed travelers crowding each other, some without masks, and were blamed for the rapid spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 virus.
Levy’s order requiring people arriving from those countries to go into a mandatory quarantine period will go into effect on Dec. 26, pending review by other members of the cabinet.
In related news, a new variant of COVID-19 recently detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Denmark has prompted Israel’s Coronavirus Cabinet to declare that they would not allow visitors to Israel from those countries until further notice, while Israeli citizens arriving from those countries would be required to enter quarantine.
"We need to close the whole world immediately - just let business people fly according to protocol, and limit those returning to a tight quarantine. It's an extreme step, but if there is a result - it will be difficult," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a Coronavirus Cabinet meeting on Sunday. "We currently see no indication that the vaccine we have won't overcome the new mutation. To the best of our knowledge, it does overcome the new strain. Of course we are examining this and following this development closely."
Medical scientists in the UK have said that the new mutation is 70% more contagious than previous strains, although they added that it would require more study to determine if it was more lethal or if it would be resistant to the vaccines already developed.
Elsewhere, a cache of Chinese government documents were leaked by hackers over the weekend and reviewed by The New York Times and ProPublica. The documents show heavy involvement by officials of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) in an operation to suppress indications of the severity of COVID-19 and the danger it posed, in regard to the original outbreak of COVID-19 in Hubei province as far back as January of 2020.
If confirmed, the information in the documents could open Beijing to class-action lawsuits by governments, corporations, organizations and individuals around the world who have been negatively affected by the pandemic which ensued.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.