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Omicron Covid variant: Israel bars tourists, reimposes quarantine rules

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Tel Aviv | November 28, 2021 1:28:49 PM IST
Israel is banning the entry of foreigners for two weeks to prevent the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus strain, local media reports said on Sunday.

Israel has decided to bar tourists, reinstate quarantine rules to contain the Omicron, The Times of Israel reported. The decision to close the borders for 14 days was made at a corona cabinet meeting on Saturday night.

"We are now in a space of uncertainty. It's not an easy space to be in, but we are all determined to maintain our tremendous achievement from the Delta - an open Israel with a functioning economy and an open education system, that is the top priority. To do this, we will need very close supervision of the state's borders and proceed with caution and with a minimum of risks," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted.

The latest COVID-19 variant identified in South Africa has been given the Greek name 'Omicron', and labeled as a variant of concern by UN health agency experts due to its large number of mutations and possible faster rate of infection.

Preliminary evidence also suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant of concern, as compared to other strains, such as Delta, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

Currently, the number of cases appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. WHO explains that the variant has been detected at faster rates than in previous surges in infection, suggesting it "may have a growth advantage".

On Wednesday, WHO's COVID-19 technical lead, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, said the information about the now 'Omicron' variant is still limited.

"There are fewer than 100 whole genome sequences that are available, we don't know very much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations, and the concern is that when you have so many mutations it can have an impact on how the virus behaves", she said during a Q&A on Twitter.

Dr. Van Kerkhove explained that researchers are currently trying to determine where the mutations are and what they potentially mean for diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.

Following the outbreak of the new variant, several countries around the world have restricted travel from several African countries. (ANI)

 
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