On Monday, the new US Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, arrived at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport - and immediately went into quarantine.

He is also subject to the strict entry regulations that came into force at the beginning of the week in order to at least slow down the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in Israel.

Christian Meier

Political Correspondent for the Middle East and Northeast Africa.

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Because two cases of the new pathogen type had already been identified there by the weekend;

the first was a woman who had entered from Malawi.

In order to counter the highly contagious Omicron variant, the Israeli Corona Cabinet decided to take extensive measures: Foreigners are prohibited from entering the country for the next two weeks - exceptions only apply to diplomats such as Ambassador Nides and other foreigners residing in Israel.

All immigrants, including Israelis, must be in quarantine for at least three days.

Israel's Corona officer, the doctor Salman Zarka, told Army Radio on Monday that in a situation of uncertainty, all available instruments must be used.

"You have to give a decisive answer at the beginning in order to prevent later restrictions having to be imposed on the entire economy."

Israel vaccinated quickly and easily

Israel's corona policy always receives a great deal of attention internationally.

The country had to cope with severe waves of infection at the beginning of the pandemic.

But then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to secure a large number of doses of the BioNTech vaccine for the more than nine million Israelis at an early stage.

Israel vaccinated quickly and easily, and the number of infections fell significantly.

Netanyahu's successor, Naftali Bennett, managed to get the aggressive Delta variant under control in a similar way six months later: Booster vaccinations were given on a large scale from the end of July.

The infection rate fell to a low level by autumn, and in early November the country opened to tourists for the first time since spring 2020.

Around the same time, the R number rose above one for the first time since the summer, which means that the pandemic is spreading - presumably mainly among unvaccinated people and children.

The vaccination campaign for children between the ages of five and eleven began last Tuesday.

The seven-day incidence remains very low, it was less than 20 as of Monday. 

Only Morocco and Japan have sealed off similarly

The strict entry rules are designed to ensure that it stays that way - especially now during the Hanukkah celebrations that began on Sunday evening.

Aside from Israel, only Morocco and Japan have so far sealed off their borders in a similar way.

The Israeli government also classified almost all countries in Africa as a "red zone".

Those returning from there must be in quarantine for at least seven days, some of them in a hotel.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said on Sunday that everything was under control, “there is no need to panic”.

However, some measures have given rise to displeasure.

As at the beginning of the pandemic, the secret service should use electronic monitoring to identify possible chains of infection.

Even within the government there was sharp criticism of the measure.

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