Israel to donate 1 million COVID vaccines to African nations

  The Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday Israel would donate one million AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines to the United Nations-backed COVAX…


The Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday Israel would donate one million AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines to the United Nations-backed COVAX program, a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to doses.

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“I am delighted that Israel can contribute and be a partner in eradicating the pandemic around the world,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said. The doses will be transferred in the coming weeks, a decision that was part of Israel’s strengthening ties with the African countries.

The announcement said the vaccines would reach close to a quarter of African countries, though it did not provide a list. Israel has close ties with several African nations, including Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. It also established relations with Sudan last year as part of a series of US-brokered accords.

COVAX aims to provide coronavirus vaccines to poorer nations as wealthier countries have acquired most of the world’s vaccine supplies, causing vast inequality in access to jabs.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry announced Thursday morning that 104,638 Israelis it screened for the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, 741 (0.79%) tested positive. The reproduction rate stands at 1.02. There are 6,446 cases in the country with 122 patients hospitalized. Of those, 80 are in serious condition.

Israel has reported 1,352,778 cases, including 8,227 deaths, since the outbreak of the pandemic last year.

Thus far, 4,140,645 Israelis have been fully vaccinated, 5,806,642 received two jabs and 6,430,161 got one jab.

In related news, the government voted on Wednesday to extend a travel ban prohibiting foreigners from entering the country until at least Dec. 29. The travel restrictions were first implemented at the end of November to stem the spread of the Omicron variant in Israel.

Although the ban was originally instituted for two weeks, lawmakers voted to extend the restrictions for an additional week, according to The Times of Israel.

The initial regulations drew outcry from the tourism sector with tour guides protesting outside Ben-Gurion International Airport on Monday.

Demonstrators criticized the government for assisting other industries impacted by the pandemic while neglecting the tourism sector and called for either compensation or the reopening of Israel’s skies.

On Wednesday night, the Health Ministry added several countries to the government’s no-fly list, nations that Israeli citizens are banned from traveling to – Norway, Ireland, Finland, France, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates. Most African countries, including South Africa where Omicron was first detected, were added to the list several weeks ago. 

Israelis returning from these countries will be required to self-quarantine upon arrival, regardless of their vaccination status.

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“I estimate that foreigners will be unable to enter Israel for another week or two at least,” Population and Immigration Authority Director-General Tomer Moskowitz told Israel Hayom on Wednesday. “We still don’t know everything about Omicron, and our goal is to prevent morbidity.

“In the past, we saw quite a few times long lines of returnees at passport control. With the decision to declare more countries as “red,” we expect a wave of returnees from these countries soon. 

“To avoid the long lines, we are assisted by the [IDF] Home Front Command, and everything is being coordinated with the Ben-Gurion Airport management,” he said.

He also said that some foreigners received an exemption and were allowed to enter Israel despite the ban.

“A 100-year-old woman in her last days [of life] who has not seen her children for years asked to enter Israel. We couldn’t not approve such a request, and of course, it was approved. Another very emotional case is of a woman who is about to have a stillbirth and asked for her parents who are not Israelis to enter the country. We approved, of course.

“There are cases of saying goodbye to relatives who are in their last days. On the other hand, there are happy occasions, such as weddings, births, and bar mitzvahs. In these cases we allow foreigners to enter Israel as well.

“Life goes on and we learn to do things in the most delicate way possible,” Moskowitz said.

According to data, of the almost 1,000 requests by foreigners the Population and Immigration Authority received, it approved approximately 700.

i24NEWS contributed to this report.


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