After banning all foreign travelers in response to the discovery of the Omicron variant last month, Israel will now add 10 new countries – including the United States, Canada and Germany – to its “red list” of places Israeli citizens and residents may not travel. 

The move officially goes into effect at midnight on December 22. Along with the US, Canada and Germany, countries added to the list include Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Switzerland, and Turkey

According to Reuters' COVID-19 tracker, Israel has seen an increasing number of cases lately. As of December 20, the country was recording an average of 753 cases a day and the country has put in travel restrictions to get ahead of the Omicron variant, which is suspected of being more contagious than previous variants.  

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports approximately 15 percent of new infections have come from abroad including an instance where a flight arriving from Miami had 17 passengers test positive for the Omicron variant. 

Out of 5,787 new coronavirus cases in the past week, 877 –  comprising some 15 percent of the infections – came from abroad.

Israel was lauded as an example of a successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Along with a population that highly vaccinated, Israel currently requires a Green Pass for indoor gatherings with more than 50 people. The Green Pass indicates that a person has been vaccinated, recovered or tested negative for coronavirus. 

Isolation required of travelers returning from red list countries

There are currently 58 countries on Israel’s red list.  According to its travel website, Israel assigns a country to the red list if the infection rate among travelers arriving from that location over the past month is more than 2 percent or there is an outbreak where the doubling rate of infections is 2 or more. 

Israeli citizens returning from red list countries are required to go into full isolation regardless of vaccination status or recovery from the virus. 

Full isolation is considered 14 days. If the traveler takes two PCR tests – one upon arrival and one on day 7 of isolation – and receives a negative result on both, isolation can be shortened to 7 days. 

Are there any exceptions to the policy?

If you have an extenuating circumstance and need to travel to or from Israel, the country has an Exceptions Committee that reviews requests for travel on a case-by-case basis.

You’ll need to fill out a form in Hebrew to make the request with the committee.

For more information on COVID-19 and travel, check out Lonely Planet's Health Hub.

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