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Latest COVID wave places tourism industry in jeopardy as Israeli Cabinet discusses option for quick border closure if new COVID surge hits the Holy Land

Tourism has barely restarted and the dust hasn’t even settled from a fifth wave which ended last month

Magen David worker tests Israelis for COVID-19 at a drive-thru complex in Jerusalem, Mar. 22, 2022. (Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel is quickly slipping backwards when it comes to COVID-19.

The dust hasn’t yet settled from a fifth wave that ended last month, yet the nation is recording rising infection rates and daily new cases over 13,000 for several days in a row now, which – for Israel – are considered rather high.

After an emergency meeting today, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz decided to extend existing restrictions, including an indoor-mask mandate, and step up vaccination efforts including financial incentives for people over 60 to get a fourth shot.

Bennett and Horowitz were even presented a plan on how to quickly close the skies in case a new variant springs up. This comes as the tourism industry is only just getting started again after two years of mostly-closed borders which only just opened again to all foreigners regardless of vaccination status on March 1.

In an apparent response to the meeting, Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov said there needs to be a back up plan for his battered industry if discussions are going this direction.

“For those who have anonymously leaked from the discussion of the variant that does not yet exist: It is important to have contingency plans, but it is also important that they remain filed away until you need them,” he wrote on Twitter. “Are you the one who will compensate everyone you scared? Will you refund all businesses for cancellations of flights, hotels, and restaurants? If not, then do not talk.”

Bennett told the health clinic to focus efforts on promoting the fourth vaccine in preventing serious illness. This despite a study by an Israeli hospital which showed that the fourth shot seemed to have “only marginal benefits.”

While almost 4.5 million Israelis have received three shots, the fourth shot was only taken by 744,000 since it was offered in December.

We reported last week that a fourth shot of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine offers low efficacy and may even largely fail to prevent virus carriers from being infectious, according to an Israeli study published in The New England Journal of Medicine on March 16.

The military's Home Front Command and Health Ministry "will continue as well as that of those responsible for coronavirus policy at educational institutions and local authorities," the Prime Minister's Foreign Media Advisor said in a statement, adding that testing of sewage "radar systems and the purchase of antigen kits – will also continue as will the deployment of air filters in educational institutions."

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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