IFAF World Flag Championships in Limbo after Israel Closes All Borders?

With the sudden appearance of the latest variant of COVID-19, Omicron in South Africa, Israel announced that it was closing its borders to all foreigners for two weeks.

Thus, one of the main international companies American football tournaments on the calendar during this two-week period, the 2021 International Federation of American Flag Football World Championships, which will be held at Kraft Family Sports Campus in Jerusalem, from December 6 to 8, is now threatened.

Variant B.1.1.529 was identified in November 2021 in Botswana and South Africa; one case had traveled to Hong Kong, one confirmed case was identified in Israel in a traveler returning from Malawi, as well as two returning from South Africa and one from Madagascar. It is known to have dramatic genetic differences from other variants.

As of November 27, the variant had spread to Europe with cases detected in two people in the UK, two in Germany and at least one in Italy, according to health officials in their respective countries.

Public health officials are studying the new variant, but its significance for the pandemic is not yet known. “Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, compared to other variants of concern,” the World Health Organization said on Friday, November 26.

The United States has banned travelers from South Africa and seven neighboring countries from worrying about the new variant.

CDC statement on B.1.1.529 (Omicron)

Football Canada had already anticipated such a problem and after consultation with athletes, coaches and officials, and having made a risk and liability assessment, informed IFAF November 1 no Canadian team would participate in the tournament.

Other countries are expected to begin to follow suit as the risk of infection from the new variant of the coronavirus continues to spread. Britain has already announced new restrictions after the discovery of two cases of the Omicron variant on British soil. Face covers will now be mandatory in shops and on public transport and anyone entering the UK from abroad will now have to take a PCR test and self-isolate until they get a result negative.

That much, IFAF has not issued a statement in response to the Israeli border closure.

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