Israel to host Miss Universe pageant despite Omicron travel ban

Israel to host Miss Universe pageant despite Omicron travel ban

When news of Omicron spread around the globe, Israel was one of the first countries to close its borders.

The travel restriction, however, doesn’t seem to apply to the many women who will be participating at the Miss Universe pageant in Eilat this December.

A day after announcing it would ban all foreign tourists, Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov said participants at the Miss Universe beauty pageant would be given waivers.

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The competition will be hosted in Israel for the first time on December 12.

“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 ahead of a 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.”

During the subsequent cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in order to stay “open internally” the country needed “to clamp down” on its borders.

Like many countries, concerns around the Omicron variant prompted the Middle Eastern country to restrict travel from South Africa last week. Over the weekend Israel banned travel from all foreign countries.

Most of the competitions 80 contestants had already arrived in Israel for the competition while others are still due to arrive.

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Following the Sunday announcement, Miss Universe Competition emailed participants encouraging them to continue travel as planned.

“We wanted to make you aware that as of this early morning in Israel, it is our understanding that the Miss Universe event will be permitted to go forward as planned,” the email stated.

“Unless otherwise advised by us, all travel should continue as planned. Please continue to the airport for your scheduled flight.” The organisation said they would continue to abide by Covid-19 guidelines to ensure production was safe.

Despite this, on Monday it was revealed that a participant had tested positive for Covid-19.

The individual’s name or country was not released by the organisers but they said she has double-vaccinated and had tested negative prior to departure. After testing positive, she was taken to a government-run isolation hotel.

Malaysia will not be represented this year as they declined to send a participant due to the risk of Covid-19.

The Miss Universe pageant has already attracted controversy this year due to the conflict between Israel and Palestine following Israel’s plans to extend their boundary walls.

Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane was called to step down by supporters in her country.

In November South Africa’s government withdrew support for the Miss South Africa organisation after it was unable to convince them to boycott the pageant.

On Sunday Mswane confirmed her attendance on Instagram.

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