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Monday, November 29, 2021
ANBOUND's Observation: Israel Uses Security Agency Shin Bet to Prevent Spread of Omicron Variant
Chan Kung

The Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus was first discovered in South Africa. Experts say it may spread 2 to 6 times faster than the Delta variant (note: this remains uncertain). It is said that one case in Israel has been confirmed, with another seven suspected cases. Three suspected cases have recently returned from abroad, raising concerns that the variant has already been transmitted within Israel.

The United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom have begun to impose travel bans and restrictions on people from South Africa and its neighboring countries. Israel is currently the first country in the world to completely close its borders due to the Omicron variant.

At a three-hour cabinet meeting in Israel on Saturday night, the Israeli government decided to tighten the quarantine regulations and restore the role of the Israeli security agency Shin Bet in surveilling the cellphones of people confirmed to be carrying the variant, and demanded events with more than 50 people to apply for the Green Pass outline, where participants must show proof of vaccination or recovery. At present, the Israeli government has not issued an order to cancel the celebration of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah started on Sunday night.

“The key here is caution and minimal risk,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Saturday night. He said that the government is looking to keep the economy and schools open, as it had done thanks in part to the rollout of the booster shot program during the Delta wave.

In an interview with 103FM radio on Sunday, Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash said that Israel’s response “isn’t hysteria, but concern. . . . We want to at least be able to delay the variant’s entry into Israel”.

Currently, Israel defines all African countries as "red", with the exception of Morocco and Egypt, which have diplomatic relations with Israel. Israelis who land from "red" countries must undergo PCR testing upon landing, enter a quarantine hotel, and then complete a 7-day home quarantine that can be ended with a negative PCR test on the seventh day.

Israelis returning from any non-red country, including those who are fully vaccinated, are required to undergo a three-day home quarantine in addition to the PCR test on landing, after which they must receive a negative PCR test result.

The government announced plans to obtain 10 million PCR test kits for testing the new variant, launch a pilot program to install air filters in classrooms and daycare facilities, and expand sewage testing nationwide to detect new cases.

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