Israel is set to issue travel warnings to eight countries with high coronavirus infection rates, sources said Wednesday.
Ynet has learned the warning is expected to be issued later in the day by the Health Ministry, which is also considering ordering compulsory isolation in state-run hotels for foreigners arriving in Israel from the eight countries, which include Mexico, India, Brazil, Turkey, Ethiopia and Ukraine.
Sources said health officials are mulling the steps due to the discovery of new, foreign COVID variants in the country, which some fear might be resistant to the vaccine. Israel's high-paced vaccination drive allowed the country to almost fully reopen, becoming one of the first in the world.
Ben Gurion Airport is Israel's main port of entry.
"There can always be a surprise via a new variant,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference on Tuesday. “One way to avoid surprises is to tighten our outer shell. We had a lengthy discussion about this, about various options… and our foreign relations with several countries.”
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein also expressed concern about new variants and the possibility of them making their way into Israel. "If something is still depriving us of sleep it's the issue of the variants from abroad. Not necessarily how many people will huddle together in a football game or in a theater."
Health Ministry Director General Hezi Levi confirmed on Tuesday that Israel has registered eight cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in India. All cases were discovered among people who have not been vaccinated.
There has been a growing concern in Israel and around the world that the Indian variant will prove resistant to the vaccines. And while there is currently no evidence to support those fears, research into the Indian mutation shows it might be more infectious than other strains of the pathogen.
Last week, India became the country with the second highest number of cases in the world since the onset of the pandemic, having registered over 15 million infections. It reported 295,041 new infections on Wednesday alone - the world's highest daily rise - stretching its hospitals to breaking point.
Meanwhile Mexico, which is expected to be included on the travel warning list, has also suffered great damage from the virus.
According to the Mexican government, a total of more than 2.3 million people were diagnosed with coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, and more than 213,000 COVID patients have died.
The real numbers are believed to be much higher.