IFAF World Flag Championships in limbo after Israel has closed all borders?

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

As a result, one of the major international American football tournaments on the calendar during that two-week period, the 2021 International Federation of American Flag Football World Championships, scheduled to be held at the Kraft Family Sports Campus in Jerusalem, December 6-8, is now in jeopardy.

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

As of Nov. 27, the variant had spread to Europe with cases detected in two people in the United Kingdom, 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, as compared to other variants of concern,” said the World Health Organization on Friday, Nov 26.

The US banned travelers from South Africa and seven nearby countries out of concern over the new variant.

CDC Statement on B.1.1.529 (Omicron)

Football Canada had already anticipated such an issue and after consultation with athletes, coaches and officials, and after making a risk and liability assessment, informed IFAF on November 1 that no Canadian team would be attending the tournament.

It is anticipated that other countries may begin following suit as the risk of infection due to the new variant of the coronavirus continues to spread. Great Britain has already announced new restrictions after two cases of the Omicron variant were discovered on British soil. Face coverings will now be compulsory in stores and on public transit and anyone who enters the UK from abroad will now be required to take a PCR test and self-isolate until they get a negative result.

However according to one IFAF representative, discussions are ongoing:

“We remain in discussion with the LOC and nations to establish the impact of the recent announcement. Once we have greater clarity, we will establish the most effective way to proceed.”





American Football International is your source for news and updates about American Football outside the United States!