Bennett's Family to Travel Abroad Despite Call to Avoid It Amid Omicron Variant

Despite Bennett asking Israelis to avoid travel in light of new fears over the omicron COVID variant, the PM's family is setting off for a holiday abroad

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his wife, Gilat, this week.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his wife, Gilat, this week.Credit: Emil Salman
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's wife and children will fly abroad for a vacation Wednesday, though a few days ago the premier implored Israelis to avoid travel due to concerns over the spread of the new COVID omicron variant.

According to the Prime Minister's Office, the trip was "planned in advance." Bennett's family members were originally planning to fly to Mauritius, though that trip was cancelled after the east African country was deemed high-risk. The new vacation destination is in accordance with Israel's travel guidelines, the Prime Minister Office said.

Responding to public criticism, Bennett said that his family must abide by the same rules as all of Israel's citizens.

"I understand the criticism, but in recent days we've learned more about the [omicron] variant and in which countries it's spreading. The coronavirus cabinet decided to which countries travel is allowed and under what conditions.

"My family (except for me, I'm staying with you) was supposed to go on vacation during Hanukkah to a country that turned out to be 'red.' The vacation was immediately cancelled, and after the new rules were agreed upon, they planned a vacation in a country where travel is allowed," Bennett said.

The COVID cabinet reaffirmed last week's decision to add about 50 countries and territories in Africa to the list of "red" destinations, effectively barring Israelis from traveling there and barring entry to any non-residents coming from these areas.

At a press conference with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and senior health officials, Bennett said that Israel is "preparing for any scenario, including the strictest," and recommended that Israelis not fly abroad.

Israel also shut its borders to foreigners from all countries for 14 days on Saturday to try to contain the spread of omicron and has reintroduced counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology to trace contacts of a handful of people who have likely been infected.

"We are in a new situation," Bennett said at the press conference. "The variant arriving from South Africa is highly concerning" and has raised alarms in the Health Ministry and among epidemiologists worldwide.

He added that South Africa has seen "a sharp rise in cases within a week" and that the new variant had surpassed the delta variant to be the dominant one in that country. It is likely that there are additional cases of this variant in Israel, he said. 

At the beginning of a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Bennett said that he asks for "patience and discipline" from the public. "We now need to tighten borders in order to keep the State of Israel open from within. I understand that maybe you need to change your vacation destination and go into isolation when you come back, it's happening to my family as well." 

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