The Health Ministry on Thursday issued a travel warning asking all Israelis to avoid unnecessary trips abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The warning focuses on seven countries experiencing severe coronavirus outbreaks: Ukraine, Ethiopia, Brazil, South Africa, India, Mexico and Turkey. However, flights to these countries will continue operating.
Israelis who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and those who have recovered from the disease are also recommended not to leave the country.
Shortly after the publication of the travel warning, Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Hezi Levi explained that the move stemmed from fear new variants capable of compromising Israel's successful vaccination drive would enter the country.
Speaking to a press briefing, Levi said the health system has listed several variants that may be a cause of concern, including a new Indian variant that seven cases of which have been detected in Israel. It was still unclear whether the new strain was resistant to the vaccine but is probably more infectious than the original virus.
According to Levi, the most common COVID-19 variant in Israel is the one first detected in the UK and accounts for some 95% of all cases nationwide. Despite being more contagious than the original virus, this strain is unable to break through the vaccine's protection.
He added that the South African variant caused health officials great concern due to the shot's lower efficacy against it but also said that it accounted only for 1% of all coronavirus cases in Israel.
In the travel warning, the ministry directed Israelis to its website to follow the list of countries in which morbidity levels, or morbidity trends developing in them, are alarming.
"Similar warnings have long been issued by various bodies around the world, including the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] in the United States, the British government and more," the statement read. "It should be emphasized that even vaccinated or recovering citizens may become infected with new variants of the virus in the outbreak areas, thereby endangering not only themselves and those close to them, but the entire country."