Professor Salman Zarka
Professor Salman Zarka Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90

Israel’s coronavirus project manager, Professor Salman Zarka, on Friday said that entry to tourists from other countries, not just in Africa, should be banned following the discovery of the new B.1.1.529 variant of coronavirus.

"Currently the restrictions on Africa are relatively extensive because caution is required in the face of the variant that could be problematic," Prof. Zarka said in an interview with Channel 12 News. "I think the policy by which we impose restrictions on returnees from abroad and tourists is correct. We will look at other countries, especially countries with connecting flights with passengers coming from Africa and passing through those countries, such as Turkey, perhaps."

"We do not want to call it a 'fifth wave' yet, and rightly so - because it can be turned off," he added. On the fear over the possibility that Israel will also be included in the list of red countries in the world in light of the discovery of new cases in the country, Prof. Zarka said he thinks it is too early for that.

"While the number of cases here are rising, unfortunately, it's not like in Europe. We came out of the fourth wave with the help of the four million who received the 'booster', with the help of the children who are being vaccinated these days - and so it will be with the million who have to receive the third dose."

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.

Earlier on Friday, 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.

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.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)