By Shira Hanau
(JTA) December 19, 2021
Israel’s Health Ministry has recommended barring Israelis from traveling to the United States due to the outbreak of the Omicron coronavirus variant there.
Over a dozen staff members of the Israeli Consulate in New York have tested positive, according to The Times of Israel. That number includes Asaf Zamir, Israel’s consul general in New York, who had recently attended the Israeli-American Council’s annual conference in Florida.
Nearly 150 members of Israel’s Knesset, or parliament, entered quarantine over the weekend after coming into contact with people who tested positive for the virus, according to The Times of Israel.
The government is set to vote on the recommendation Sunday evening and, if the recommendation is accepted, the travel restrictions would go into effect Wednesday.
Foreign travelers have been barred from visiting Israel, with few exceptions, since a travel ban was imposed on Nov. 28.
The decision to bar travel to the United States comes as the Omicron variant is projected to quickly become the dominant variant in several countries, including the United States. It also follows the arrival of a flight from the United States in which nearly 10% of the passengers tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Haaretz. Most of the cases on the plane were suspected to be from the Omicron variant.
In addition to adding the United States to the list of “red” countries to which Israelis are barred from traveling to, the Health Ministry also recommended banning travel to Canada, Portugal, Turkey, Germany, Hungary, Morocco and Belgium.