Prime Minister Naftali Bennett issued a special statement to the media regarding the new strain of COVID-19.
"We are at an alarming point today. About two weeks ago we held an exercise to prepare for a new strain, a scenario that has already come true. This new strain is extremely concerning." Bennett said.
The Israeli government has announced a series of steps to stop the spread of the new COVID-19 variant in Israel, a statement from the Prime Minister's Office said.
The new variant arrived in Israel Thursday night. So far, only one case has been verified, but two other individuals are waiting for the results of their COVID-19 test's genetic sequencing.
As of Friday afternoon, the decisions - which followed an urgent meeting called by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett - were as follows:
- Countries in Africa, including Mauritius, Seychelles, and Madagascar, other than countries in northern Africa, will be declared "red" countries.
- The entry of foreigners into Israel from these countries will be prohibited.
- The Home Front Command will locate all of those who arrived from countries in Africa over the past week, and instruct them to enter quarantine immediately. At the same time, home tests will be conducted.
- Anyone who spent time in a country in Africa, even if he arrived in Israel from another country, will be called to immediately undergo a PCR test to identify the virus, and afterwards will be quarantined until the results of the test are received.
- Ten million PCR tests adapted to allow careful identification of the new variant will be purchased.
- As part of a pilot program, HEPA air filters will be purchased and installed within about two weeks in hundreds of classrooms and about 100 preschools around Israel.
- The process of testing the sewage around Israel will be accelerated, so as to locate hidden infections involving the new variant.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, Bennett said: "We are at an alarming point today. We are in a new situation. The variant which has arrived from South Africa is extremely concerning."
He emphasized that Israeli labs have examined "dozens of variants in the past year."
"About two weeks ago we held an exercise to prepare for a new strain, a scenario that has already come true. This new strain is extremely concerning."
"This strain has flown, and it has already entered Israel," Bennett added. "There is one confirmed case, and another three which are being examined right now, and our assumption is that there are others. The good news is that the State of Israel woke up early, first in the world. Our system is prepared, all of our systems are prepared."
"Our operations will have a certain price, an economic price, and we are preparing to help those who need it. Until the Coronavirus Cabinet convenes on Saturday night, all African countries are defined from this moment as red countries."
The Coronavirus Cabinet will meet again on Saturday night, to continue the discussion and to approve the decisions.
Earlier, Britain announced it was temporarily banning flights from South Africa and five other countries as of 1200 GMT on Friday, Reuters reported, adding that returning British travelers from those destinations would have to quarantine.