Israel will ban travel to the USA and Canada due to the omicron variant

JERUSALEM (AP), -- Israeli ministers have agreed Monday to prohibit travel to the United States, Canada, and eight other countries, amid rapid global spread of the omicron variant.

Israel will ban travel to the USA and Canada due to the omicron variant

After a Cabinet vote, the office of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced that they had made their decision.

This rare decision to red-list U.S. coincides with rising coronavirus infection in Israel. It also marks a shift to pandemic practices among the two countries that have close diplomatic relations. The U.S. joins a growing number of European countries and other destinations that Israelis cannot travel to and must be quarantined.

The measure will be approved by a parliamentary committee. The travel ban will be in effect Wednesday morning at midnight.

Israel has experienced an increase in the number of cases of the more dangerous coronavirus variant over recent weeks. In response, it began closing its borders and restricting travel late November. All foreign nationals are prohibited from entering Israel, and Israelis who arrive from abroad must be quarantined -- even those who have been vaccinated.

The travel ban that began Wednesday was also approved for other countries, including Belgium, Germany and Hungary.

Israel launched a world-leading vaccination program in the beginning of this year. More than 4.1 million Israelis have been vaccinated with BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet called on parents to get their children vaccinated in a prime-time speech Sunday. He declared that Israel's fifth wave of coronavirus infection had started. Israel's Health Ministry reported 175 cases as of Sunday.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Israel has seen at least 8,232 coronavirus-related deaths.