Israel on Thursday approved the measure that would see anyone returning from seven "dangerous" countries with high coronavirus infection rates enter a two-week quarantine in a state-run hotel.
Director General of the Health Ministry Prof. Hezi Levi after several delays signed the order, according to which anyone returning from Ukraine, Ethiopia, Brazil, South Africa, India, Mexico and Turkey will enter isolation even if they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID.
The countries in question are have all been placed on Israel's recently issued travel warning list. The steps were taken due to the discovery of new, foreign COVID variants in some of the countries, which some fear might be resistant to the vaccine and Ben Gurion Airport remains Israel's main port of entry.
As per the new restrictions - which will take effect on Monday pending approval by a Knesset committee - all arrivals from the seven countries will be required to enter isolation for 14 days or 10 days, if the two COVID tests they will have undergone upon landing return negative.
The delay in implementing this potentially lifesaving measure has prompted the cabinet of health experts that advises the Health Ministry to criticize both the ministry and the government.
The cabinet also criticized the delay in utilizing electronic bracelets to monitor the arrivals placed in quarantine - both of which play a critical part in preventing the spread of new COVID variants across the country.
“We call for the immediate implementation of the measures agreed upon with the Health Ministry, which aim to reduce the risk of new COVID variants being imported into Israel and the risk of them spreading,” wrote the cabinet in its recommendation.
“These include preventing the arrival of tourists from countries that pose a special risk, continuing to carry out tests on travelers before and after landing regardless of their vaccine status, and implementing the program to ensure the hermetic isolation of returnees (including via electronic bracelets).”
On Wednesday, coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash told Ynet that Israel might place a potential ban on arrivals from the seven countries.
Asked whether the Health Ministry's travel warning list would be expanded, Ash said that the listing will be reviewed on a weekly basis in accordance with global data.
"I can find examples of severe coronavirus morbidity across the globe," he said. "For now, we are still monitoring and seeing whether the list of nations will have to be revised."