Israel Bans All Foreigners Except Beautiful Women Due to Omicron Variant

Despite Israel being one of the first countries to close its borders due to concerns around the new Omicron COVID variant, it is still planning to host a cavalcade of beautiful women at the Miss Universe pageant at the Red Sea resort city of Eilat in December.

Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov made the announcement on Sunday, a day after Israel said it was banning all foreigners from entering the country.

The minister told reporters that participants at the Miss Universe beauty pageant would be given waivers while possibly undergoing PCR testing every two days, as well as other precautionary measures.

"This is an event that will be broadcast in 174 countries, a very important event, an event that Eilat, too, is very much in need of," Razvozov said before Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting. "We will know how to manage this event. So, by using the waivers committee, we will have events like this, to which the country already committed itself and cannot cancel."

Newsweek has contacted the ministry for comment.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett gave a televised address during the cabinet meeting, in which he said Israel needs "to clamp down" on its borders to keep the country "open internally."

Israel plans to host the competition for the first time on December 12.

The Middle Eastern country restricted travel from all foreign countries over the weekend, after it had previously blocked travel from seven countries in southern Africa due to concerns around the Omicron variant. The variant has been feared by governments and scientists for having 32 mutations, many more than previously seen on any of the COVID variants. However, the South African doctor who was the first to identify the variant has said that those infected had "very mild symptoms." But it is too early to fully understand how infectious and harmful the variant could be.

Two cases of the new variant have been found in Israel, and Omicron is also present in southern Africa, Europe, as well as Hong Kong.

Next month's beauty pageant has also attracted controversy for other reasons. There were calls for Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane to step down from the event due to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, who are protesting against Israel's latest decision to extend their boundary walls in Jerusalem and illegally build thousands of new homes on occupied Palestinian territory.

Mswane confirmed on Sunday via her Instagram account that she will be attending the beauty pageant.

In November, South Africa's government released a statement saying it has withdrawn support for the Miss South Africa organization after it was unable to convince organizers to boycott the Miss Universe pageant in Israel.

Andrea Meza wins 2020 Miss Universe
Miss Universe 2020 winner Andrea Meza attends the 2021 Billboard Latin Music Awards. This year's edition of Miss Universe is set to take place in Israel. Getty Images