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Israel imposes travel ban to southern Africa as new Covid-19 variant spreads

Israel announced on Thursday that its people would be barred from travelling to southern Africa and that foreigners would be denied admission, citing the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant by South African scientists.

South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini have been added to Israel’s ‘red’ travel list, which reflects coronavirus infection rates in other countries.

Israelis are prohibited from visiting nations that are on the ‘red’ list unless they obtain special approval from the health ministry.

Citizens of the seven southern African countries will not be allowed to enter Israel, office of the Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett informed in a statement.
Israelis returning home from certain countries would be required to stay in a quarantine hotel for 7-14 days after their arrival.

Scientists told reporters at a news conference in South Africa that the new variant, known as B.1.1.529, has a ‘quite uncommon constellation’ of mutations that are troubling because they could enable the virus to dodge the body’s immune response and become more transmissible.

Around 100 specimens have been confirmed as B.1.1.529 in South Africa, but the variety has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong, with the Hong Kong case involving a tourist from South Africa.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Israel has documented 1.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 8,000 deaths. According to the Health Ministry, almost 57 percent of Israel’s 9.4 million population are fully vaccinated.


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