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Israel to start reopening to foreigners

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  • Naftali Bennett
    Prime Minister of Israel

Israel said on Monday (January 3) it will admit foreigners with presumed COVID-19 immunity from 199 countries deemed medium-risk next week.

The move, which partially reverses a ban imposed in late November, suggests Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government sees waning value in sweeping travel curbs - which wrecked winter tourism.

The new rules come a day after Bennett announced that the country will offer medical staff and those over the age of 60 a fourth coronavirus vaccine.

Concerned citizens, like Sharon Gefen, welcomed the move, as Israel faces a surge in Omicron infections.

"As soon as we heard that Israel was allowing people 60 and above to get the fourth vaccine, we made an appointment, myself and my husband, to get the vaccine, because we are concerned, we know it's very very contagious, I believe it's almost impossible to avoid contact with somebody who has the Omicron. And I think that this is the best way to avoid getting sick with Covid."

Israel only approved the use of a fourth dose of the Pfizer vaccine for the immune-compromised and the elderly living in care homes last week.

Over the past 10 days, daily infections have more than quadrupled and COVID cases are predicted to reach record highs in the coming weeks.

Bennett expects up to 50,000 could be infected daily.

The rapid pace of infection has led to many Israelis waiting hours in lines for coronavirus tests, although Omicron has not brought corresponding rises in mortality.

Speaking in a televised address on Sunday (January 2), Bennett said the country was "acting swiftly and decisively".

"Israel will once again be pioneering the global vaccination effort. Omicron is not Delta, it's a different ball game altogether, we must keep our eye on the ball, act swiftly and decisively if we want to continue engaging and working with an open country as much as possible throughout this pandemic."

Around 60% of the country’s 9.4 million population are fully vaccinated - meaning they have either received three doses or have recently had their second.

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