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Israel bans arrivals from most of Africa over new coronavirus variant

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By Reuters

<div> <p><span class="caps">JERUSALEM</span> -Israel on Friday imposed a travel ban on most African states, after reporting cases of a new and potentially vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa.</p> <p>Prime Minister Naftali Bennett widened a ban on Thursday on the entry of foreigners from seven African countries and travel to them. </p> <p>“We are currently on the verge of a state of emergency,” he said, adding that the B.1.1.529 variant had “arrived at a very complicated time”, coinciding with the Hanukkah vacation when children, mostly unvaccinated, are out of school.</p> <p>Bennett said a few cases had been reported in Israel, including at least person who had already received a vaccine booster shot.</p> <p>“That doesn’t mean the vaccines are no good (against the new variant). It might mean they are effective to a certain degree,” said Bennett, who met Israeli health experts before the travel edicts were announced.</p> <p>Under the broader restrictions, all African nations, except those in North Africa, were added to Israel’s “red list” of high-risk countries.</p> <p>Other authorities including in the EU and Britain also reacted with alarm to the new variant, while the World Health Organisation (<span class="caps">WHO</span>) countries against hastily imposing travel restrictions, favouring a “risk-based and scientific approach”.</p> <p>Bennett told journalists a national lockdown was not an option at the moment, though Israel’s coronavirus panel of experts would reconvene on Saturday night to discuss possible additional measures.</p> <p>Israel has recorded 1.3 million confirmed cases of <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 and more than 8,000 fatalities since the pandemic began.</p> <p>Around 43% of Israel’s population of 9.4 million have received three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.</p> </div>