Person on Israeli PM’s flight from UAE tests COVID positive

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — A person who was on Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s flight back from the United Arab Emirates has tested positive for COVID-19, the prime minister’s office said Tuesday.

Bennett returned to Israel on Monday from a historic two-day trip to the Gulf Arab state, the first by an Israeli leader to the country, which recently normalized ties with Israel.

He was in a three-day quarantine on Tuesday as per Health Ministry regulations, which require all returning travelers, even those vaccinated, to self-isolate. He was expected to take a coronavirus test on Wednesday, also in line with health regulations, and then end his quarantine if he tests negative, the prime minister’s office said.

Bennett’s office did not specify who the person was who tested positive.

Bennett was meant to be accompanied by a phalanx of Israeli and foreign journalists and a sizeable entourage on the visit. But a day before his departure, journalists were notified that because of concerns over omicron, the new coronavirus variant, they would not be joining and that Bennett’s entourage would be downsized.

Since the omicron strain emerged, Israel has sealed its borders to foreign tourists and placed limits on Israelis flying abroad. It has barred travel to all countries in sub-Saharan Africa and imposed self-quarantine requirements for all returning travelers.

On Tuesday, the government said it was expanding restrictions and would require people to show proof of vaccination in order to enter closed shopping malls beginning Friday. Israel also is expanding its travel ban to include a number of additional countries, including the U.K. and Denmark.

Bennett’s trip this week to the UAE came against the backdrop of nuclear talks between world powers and regional archrival Iran over its tattered nuclear deal.

The trip also cemented the normalization agreement signed by Israel and the UAE under the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords, which also saw similar deals between Israel and Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

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