The contestants in the Miss Universe contest will compete for the crown in Israel on Sunday despite concerns over the Omicron version and political clashes over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
About 80 women from all over the world will take the stage for the annual competition in the Red Sea city of Eilat on Sunday evening.
The completion comes after the country announced that it would impose new travel restrictions amid the spread of the Omicron virus, including preventing foreigners from entering the country.
But tourism officials said the state has given women exemptions that require them to undergo on-site testing every 48 hours and to wear masks at all times when they are not on stage.
All competitors and employees must also have been fully vaccinated within six months on the go.
“Being in Israel this year has added new challenges as we have had to keep up with the latest developments in which vaccines will be accepted, travel and quarantine days,” Miss Universe Communications Director Meg Omesen told CNN.
Other countries have also criticized Israel for hosting the competition.
The South African government has called on Miss South Africa, Lilila Mswan, to withdraw, citing what she called “apartheid” at the hands of the Israeli government, CNN reported.
“If anything happens, by withdrawing, Miss South Africa’s reputation and public standing will be more advanced in South Africa and internationally than a one-off event that could be disastrous for her future and public standing as a young black woman,” said the South African Minister of Sports, Art and Culture. Africa, Nati Mathwa, in a statement.
However, Meswan still attended the competition.
“If I had not come to Israel to compete in the Miss Universe contest, I think I would have regretted it for the rest of my life,” He told the Jerusalem Post. “Some people have put me through hell and back. It wasn’t the easiest thing to deal with…but I chose to be an optimist.”