Israel sharply cut the number of “red” countries on its no-fly list from 69 to 15, but key destinations like the US, Canada and the UK remain prohibited. The changes went into effect at midnight Tuesday.
The decision was taken by the so-called coronavirus cabinet in a telephone vote, accepting the recommendations of a Health Ministry committee, and removing 54 countries from the list of destinations deemed “red” and requiring special permission to fly to or from.
Among the destinations removed from the red list were much of Africa, Belgium, Italy, Ireland, Germany, and the Scandinavian nations. They would now be classified as “orange” countries, with a travel warning, but no formal restrictions.
However, the US, UK, Canada, France, UAE, Switzerland, South Africa, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Turkey would remain on the no-go list, along with Mexico, which was added on Tuesday.
The planned changes come after Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Sunday that with the Omicron strain quickly spreading throughout the country and driving a renewed COVID-19 outbreak Israel would soon remove many restrictions on airline travel to and from the country that were imposed to slow the new strain’s arrival.
There was no indication when or if the government was planning to lift the restrictions on the remaining nations.
The cabinet also approved further restrictions on school study. Elementary school children who have a classmate test positive will move to either outdoor or distance learning.
The new regulations come as the Health Ministry on Tuesday announced the death of a woman from a suspected Omicron infection, and confirmed over 600 more cases of the new coronavirus variant.
The woman had been vaccinated against COVID-19 and had received a booster shot, according to a ministry statement.
If verified, the woman would be the first Omicron fatality recorded in Israel. A reported death from Omicron last week was later clarified to have been caused by the Delta strain of coronavirus.
The Health Ministry statement said 623 new Omicron cases were confirmed in the past day, bringing the number of Omicron infections since the variant was first detected in Israel to 1,741.
According to the ministry, two unvaccinated people were in serious condition from Omicron infections, including one hooked up to a ventilator.
It said another six people were hospitalized with less serious bouts, four of whom were vaccinated.
Over 1,000 of the confirmed Omicron carriers came from abroad, the Health Ministry added.