Israel has added the US to its “no fly” list, prohibiting citizens from visiting the country without special permission, citing efforts to slow the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant of Covid-19.
In a statement issued by the office of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday, Israel announced that the United States would be added to its red list of countries, making America off-limits to Israelis.
The decision followed a meeting of the cabinet on Sunday and will come into effect at midnight on Tuesday (10pm GMT), according to the statement. Those needing to travel will have to gain special permission.
There are now more than 50 countries to which Israelis cannot travel due to fears about the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
The United States, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Morocco, Portugal, Canada, Switzerland and Turkey were all added to the no-fly roster on Monday, following recommendations from the Ministry of Health.
Speaking in a televised address on Sunday, Bennett said Israel, through tough border restrictions, had bought time to prepare against the new variant. However, he predicted a surge of infections in the coming weeks.
To date, Israel has registered 134 confirmed Omicron cases and another 307 suspected cases. According to the Health Ministry, 167 were symptomatic.
The Omicron variant has driven a new surge of infections, even in places like the UK where vaccination levels are high.