COVID around the world: Israel to ban foreigners as other nations tighten restrictions on Britons
Global concern about the coronavirus pandemic is growing, with a number of countries detecting confirmed cases of the Omicron variant for the first time.
Travel restrictions are also being imposed once again as governments suspend flights from southern Africa, the region where this strain was first detected.
Here is a look at the latest COVID-19 developments around the world.
On Saturday, Israel unveiled plans to ban all foreigners from entering the country.
If the proposals are approved, it will become the first nation to completely shut its borders in response to the Omicron variant.
There are fears that B.1.1.529 could be more contagious than other variants – and more resistant to vaccines.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the ban would last for 14 days.
So far, Israel has one confirmed case of the Omicron variant, and seven suspected cases.
Phone-tracking technology is going to be used to locate carriers of the new variant, in an attempt to stop it being transmitted to others.
From Monday, the US is going to restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries in the region.
American citizens and permanent US residents – along with spouses and close friends – will be exempt.
No cases linked to Omicron have been detected in the country so far.
But Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease specialist, told NBC that he wouldn’t be surprised if the variant is already in the States, adding: “When you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility … it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over.”
In separate developments, New York Governor Kathy Hochul issued a COVID-19 “disaster emergency” declaration on Friday, with infections and hospitalisations increasing in the state.
On Saturday, health officials confirmed that a case of the Omicron variant had been detected in Italy.
The business traveller had flown from Mozambique, landing in Rome on 11 November and returning to his home in Naples.
Five of his family members, including two children, have also tested positive. All are now isolating and have light symptoms.
The Omicron variant has also been detected in two travellers who arrived on a flight from South Africa on 24 November.
Although genome sequencing is yet to be completed, it is “proven without doubt that this is the variant”.
Both cases were detected in the southern state of Bavaria, and another suspected case has been found in the west of the country.
Dutch health officials have detected 61 COVID-19 cases among people who flew from South Africa on Friday.
Although the Netherlands Institute for Health is “almost certain” some of these patients have the Omicron variant, further testing is required to be absolutely sure.
The KLM airline expressed surprise at the high number of cases because all passengers had either tested negative or shown proof of vaccination before boarding flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Authorities in the country are now attempting to contact 5,000 passengers who have travelled from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia or Zimbabwe since Monday.
Quarantine requirements have been widened to a greater number of travellers in an attempt to stem the spread of the Omicron variant.
Those arriving from the UK, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Egypt and Malawi will now be subject to tighter restrictions.
The Federal Office of Public Health said passengers from these countries will need to present a negative COVID-19 test and quarantine for 10 days too.
Direct flights have already been banned from South Africa and the surrounding region.
Despite cases being detected in Italy and Germany, both neighbours of Switzerland, travel restrictions have not been imposed on any countries it shares borders with.
From next month, British tourists will only be able to enter Spain if they can show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.
Until now, unvaccinated travellers were allowed into the country if they could present a negative PCR test that was take 72 hours before their arrival.
“The appearance of new variants causing (coronavirus) obliges an increase in restrictions,” the government said.
Spain’s Industry, Trade and Tourism department said approximately 300,000 British people who are resident in Spain will not be affected by the new measures.
Israel accuses Hamas of violating truce deal – military operations set to resume
Israel’s military has resumed combat in Gaza after accusing Hamas of violating the seven-day truce.
A spokesperson for Israel Defence Forces said: “Hamas violated the operational pause and in addition fired toward Israeli territory.”
Around 30 minutes after the ceasefire was due to end, the Israeli military said its fighter jets were striking Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.
Images on social media showed large plumes of dark smoke rising over the densely built-up Jabalia refugee camp.
IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said multiple rockets had been launched from Gaza towards Israel.
The ceasefire was due to expire at 7am local time (5am UK) on Friday – with the IDF claiming it was “ready” and willing to continue military operations.
A total of 79 Israeli hostages have been released by Hamas over seven consecutive days, with hundreds of Palestinians freed from prisons in exchange.
About 140 hostages remain in Gaza.
Reaching agreements on hostage releases appeared to be getting harder as most women and children had already been released.
International mediators – including diplomats from Qatar, Egypt and the US – had been working to extend the temporary truce.
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An end to the Israel-Hamas truce approaches – but the people of Gaza are desperate for help
The ceasefire clock is ticking down and everyone in Gaza knows it.
In the calm, people have been flooding to hospitals looking for treatment – almost overwhelming doctors.
At a hospital in southern Gaza, a Sky News team filmed as patient after patient was brought in for treatment, many of them children, with undiagnosed illnesses.
The hospital’s corridors were crammed, with the injured placed on rickety beds.
In one doctor’s room, mother after mother entered with their ill children, desperate for help.
There is a real fear of a major spread of disease among the civilians, who are largely homeless and barely finding enough food to survive.
The head of the safety unit of the Ministry of Health in Gaza told Sky News the basic lack of hygiene and lack of clean water is making problems worse.
“There are many different types of diseases, such as skin diseases between the refugees, especially gut diseases and diarrhoea,” Estamily A’adeni explained.
“As you may know most of the displaced people have a basic lack of hygiene because of their evacuation, and lack of water hygiene, this is why we see an increase in some cases such as skin disease, respiratory illness, and children in particular are suffering from diarrhoea,” he added.
Aid deliveries have continued both to the south and the north of the Gaza Strip, and the quantity of it coming in has increased.
But aid agencies have consistently said it is hopelessly inadequate.
People are increasingly desperate, and they know that when the war resumes life will get even worse.
Hundreds of thousands have already moved south, and they face the very real prospect of having to move again.
Of course, the current ceasefire has been entirely dependent on the release of hostages in Gaza, and the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
At the permanent vigil for hostages at a square in Tel Aviv, it’s clear that people are desperate for them to be returned.
At the same time though, there is widespread support for a resumption of the war on Hamas. And this is a conundrum for the Israeli government and the military – and Hamas of course always knew it would be.
This complex process has so far been remarkably successful, with negotiators staying in constant touch with both Israel and Hamas.
The vigil site itself is dominated by an enormous, fully dressed dinner table with place settings for all the hostages. Silhouetted pictures of people are hung over the back of chairs to symbolise that they’re still missing.
Chairs without the pictures represent the hostages who have been released and are now in hospital or back with their families in Israel.
Hundreds of people wander around the square looking at installations – including bound and blindfolded toy dolls that represent the children being held.
A few gazebos have been set up by survivors of the various kibbutzim attacked by Hamas on 7 October. Pictures of the dead and missing from the individual kibbutz adorn the gazebos, and people come to mourn and chat with friends and relatives.
In the crowd I met Sandra Cohen. I asked her if she, like others here, believed the war against Hamas had to restart, and I asked her about the complexities of the IDF’s tactics – how to attack Hamas and get the hostages out.
“They have a dilemma because getting them out and having a full destruction of the tunnels could put them in harm’s way, so they take it day by day and they do it slowly, obviously they have drones that watch and see what’s happening, but they do want to get them back alive, and we just have to wait and see what happens.”
Henry Kissinger: Former United States secretary of state has died aged 100
Former United States secretary of state Henry Kissinger has died aged 100.
He passed away at his home in Connecticut on Wednesday, according to a statement from Kissinger Associates Inc.
The veteran politician had major influence on American foreign policy under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Born in Germany in 1923, Mr Kissinger fled the Nazi regime with his family as a teenager and settled in the US in 1938.
During eight years as a national security adviser and secretary of state, Dr Kissinger was involved in major foreign policy events including the first example of “shuttle diplomacy” seeking peace in the Middle East, secret negotiations with China to defrost relations between the burgeoning superpowers and the instigation of the Paris peace talks seeking an end to the Vietnam conflict.
In 1973 he was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to negotiate an end to the Vietnam War.
However, Dr Kissinger, along with President Nixon, also bore the brunt of criticism from the US’s allies following the fall of Saigon to North Vietnamese forces in 1975 as the remaining US personnel fled what is now known as Ho Chi Minh City.
His influence over US diplomacy – which continued long after he left office – has not been without controversy, and some activists called for him to be prosecuted for war crimes.
He remained active in politics, even after his 100th birthday in May, attending meetings in the White House, publishing a book on leadership styles, and testifying before a Senate committee about the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
In July 2023 he made a surprise visit to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Kissinger was a statesman for the ages
Henry Kissinger was a statesman for the ages – a scholar and celebrity who once spoke of how he was able to “do things” for a number of presidents.
But while the things he did earned him the moniker “top diplomat” for some, others chose “war criminal”.
As president Nixon’s architect-in-chief on US foreign policy, Kissinger built a relationship with the world based on American self-interest and, in doing so, drafted a legacy that divided opinion.
Supporters hail the “realpolitik”, a pragmatism that underpinned how the Nixon administration interacted with allies and adversaries.
Kissinger’s proactive engagement with China and diplomatic craft in dealings with the Soviet Union – dialogue, detente and nuclear arms control – is credited with reshaping the course of the Cold War.
His shuttle diplomacy during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war in the early seventies helped to contain the conflict and, in 1973, he shared a Nobel Peace Prize for his part in ending American involvement in the Vietnam War.
During his early life, after becoming a naturalised US citizen in 1943, Dr Kissinger joined the US Army the same year and was awarded a Bronze Star.
He would go on to serve with US counter intelligence in occupied Germany.
Dr Kissinger earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees at Harvard University, where he taught international relations for almost 20 years before President Nixon appointed him national security advisor in 1969.
He is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years, Nancy Maginnes Kissinger, two children by his first marriage, David and Elizabeth, and five grandchildren.
According to the statement from Kissinger Associates: “He will be interred at a private family service. At a later date, there will be a memorial service in New York City.”
Senator and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney paid tribute to Dr Kissinger on X describing him as a “great one” and saying: “Fortunate indeed is America for his lifetime of diplomacy, wisdom, and love of freedom.”
Winston Lord, former US ambassador to China and Dr Kissinger’s one time special assistant said: “The world has lost a tireless advocate for peace.
“America has lost a towering champion for the national interest. I have lost a cherished friend and mentor.
“Henry blended the European sense of tragedy and the American immigrant’s sense of hope.”
Cindy McCain, the wife of late Senator John McCain said: “Henry Kissinger was ever present in my late husband’s life.
“While John was a POW and in the later years as a Senator & statesman.
“The McCain family will miss his wit, charm, and intelligence terribly.”
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