The Health Ministry on Tuesday demanded from the government to ban all travel to and from "dangerous" countries with high coronavirus infection rates.
The ministry also demanded to bring back the measure of compulsory quarantine at state-run virus hotels for Israeli nationals returning from those countries, even if they have been fully vaccinated.
The countries in question are India, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and Mexico. All of countries were also included in Israel's recently issued travel warning list, over very high coronavirus infection rates and the discovery of new variants, which some fear might be resistant to the vaccine.
"In order to keep the infection rate low and allow for the continued relief of sanctions on the economy, the Health Ministry is seeking to bring for the government's approval a policy that would tighten restrictions on the country's borders, all while allowing the state itself to reopen," the ministry said.
The ministry added that at this point it is not seeking to ban flights from these countries completely, but it might change depending on the government's decision on the matter.
The Health Ministry further recommends dividing all the world's countries into two groups of low and high risk, which will be reviewed and updated every two weeks depending on infection rate and variant data compiled by the Military Intelligence Directorate.
As per their recommendation, the first group will include the majority of countries. Those returning from these countries will not be subjected to any restrictions.
The second group will currently include the countries deemed "dangerous". Those returning from these countries will be subjected to stringent restrictions in order to avoid the entry of new COVID variants into the country.
The ministry also recommended that the government postpone a new tourism pilot, which aims is to bring foreign tourists back to Israel by the end of June to revitalize the country’s tourism industry.
"It is of great importance that the government approve this plan so that the reliefs on the economy can be implemented without any danger," the ministry said.
The CEO of the Assuta Ashdod Hospital, Dr. Erez Birnbaum, backed the ministry's demands.
"Continued flights from India alongside the reopening of new air routes could result in unwanted and dangerous mutations making their way into Israel. We do not have the privilege of risking a new outbreak. We should learn from the past.”