As the government agreed to update a list of banned countries due to high levels of coronavirus infections, a move that could reduce flights abroad, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said those working in the tourism industry should start looking for new jobs.
“As for travel agents and tour guides, it should be said: Start changing professions,” Liberman said during a Sunday cabinet meeting.
“We, as experts in the tourism industry, know that there is a high demand to come [for services],” Yoav Rotem, a tour guide, told Channel 12 news.
“Whoever closes my workplace, and disables me — I’m not unemployed, I’m disabled. It’s him, and his government,” Rotem said, blasting Liberman.
Amid the rise of the Omicron COVID-19 variant late last month, the government took the far-reaching steps of shuttering its borders to foreigners for two weeks. On Thursday evening, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett ordered the directive extended an additional 10 days.
Explaining the decision on Sunday, Bennett said, “We want to delay [Omicron’s] entry into the country through the restrictions at Ben Gurion Airport, and, at the same time, take advantage of these precious days to increase everyone’s immunity. We are not protected enough at the moment.”
“Two weeks ago, we decided to tighten restrictions on entry into the country, and there were those who said we were going too far, but we see now that we were not going too far at all,” he said as he opened the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “The Omicron [variant] is indeed worrying. Europe is entering the holiday season under significant restrictions and lockdowns in some countries.”
Meanwhile, the list of banned countries was updated to include the United Kingdom and Denmark, the Health Ministry announced Sunday evening.
Health Ministry Nitzan Horowitz said additional countries will be classified as “red” in the coming days, but stressed that the government does not currently plan to bar international travel entirely.
He also urged Israelis to refrain from non-essential travel overseas.
“Whoever is planning to travel abroad at this time needs to know that, upon their return, they are likely to go into full quarantine because the country will be declared a red country,” Nachman Ash, the ministry’s director-general, said during a briefing.
Under new quarantine rules approved Sunday by a Knesset committee, Israelis coming from “red” countries must isolate at a state-run facility for at least 10 days. However, they can be released to their homes to complete their quarantines if they test negative for Omicron.
According to the latest Health Ministry figures, 223 coronavirus infections were confirmed Saturday, with 0.63 percent of tests coming back positive. The number of serious cases has recently ticked back above 100, days after dropping below that mark for the first time in four months.
The death toll remained at 8,210, with no fatalities since last Monday.
A total of 6,400,940 Israeli have received a first coronavirus vaccine, with 5,789,014 of them having also received a second shot and 4,120,329 of them having received a third.