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Justice minister: New COVID measures unwarranted without ‘very, very strong reasons’

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After the government approved several major new measures intended to limit the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar said Sunday that he felt the restrictions were unwarranted, given the currently known facts.

During Saturday night’s coronavirus cabinet meeting, Sa’ar voted against the new restrictions. Speaking to the Ynet news site on Sunday morning, he said he respected the majority decision but did not agree with it.

Ministers voted to ban noncitizens from entering the country for two weeks, to expand mandatory quarantine for vaccinated Israelis arriving from abroad from 24 to 72 hours, and to authorize the Shin Bet security service to use tracking measures to find those who came into contact with suspected cases.

“I previously supported the proposals on [blocking] arrival from those African countries” where the new variant is suspected to be prevalent, he said. But “there are restrictions here that I feel are not right, such as restrictions on arriving Israelis, included the vaccinated, and a complete halt of tourism to Israel.”

Sa’ar noted that such measures have “significant economic costs, at a time when we are on a good economic path.”

He added that the world, and Israel, “will be living for an unknown period of time with the coronavirus and with one mutation or another. We need to maintain our economy and routine life, and enact restrictions when it is truly necessary. We can always take extreme action. I don’t recommend doing so without very, very strong reasons.”

And such reasons had not yet been presented for Omicron, he said. “I don’t think the facts presented yesterday justified these decisions and that’s why I voted against them. Of course I respect the majority ruling and it obligates us all.”

In an interview Sunday morning, Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash spoke out in support of the new measures. Omicron, he told 103FM Radio, was “the most concerning variant so far. The steps being taken are........

© The Times of Israel

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