Israel reinstates ‘phone surveillance’ in effort to contain omicron variant – WP

TEL AVIV —Israel will forbid the entry of noncitizens for two weeks, starting at midnight Sunday night, in an attempt to stem the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant in Israel and to allow experts time to assess its level of transmissibility and resistance against existing vaccines. The newest variant, which was first detected in South Africa and which experts say may spread two to six times more quickly than the delta variant, is confirmed in one person and suspected in seven others in Israel. Only three of the suspected cases had recently returned from abroad, raising concern that the variant’s transmission has already begun within Israel. The United States, the European Union and Britain have begun implementing travel bans and restrictions for people coming from South Africa and neighboring countries. Israel is the first country to completely shut its borders because of the omicron variant. At a three-hour cabinet meeting on Saturday night, the government decided to tighten quarantine rules, reinstate the Israeli security service Shin Bet’s role in surveilling the cellphones of people confirmed to be carrying the variant, and require events of more than 50 participants to apply a Green Pass system, by which participants must show proof of vaccination or recovery. There are no directives to cancel events for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, which starts Sunday night.

Israel bars all foreigners, reinstates phone surveillance in effort to contain omicron variant