Despite calls to boycott the event in solidarity with Palestinians, more than 70 countries are expected to compete at the 70th edition of Miss Universe in Eilat, Israel, on 12 December.
Beauty queens from around the world have started to arrive in Israel ahead of coronation night, despite a travel ban prohibiting foreigners from entering the country for 14 days, in an attempt to slow the spread of the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron.
A travel ban on foreigners coming from most African countries was imposed on Friday.
According to Reuters, Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov on Sunday said that Miss Universe participants would be granted waivers while possibly undergoing PCR testing every 48 hours and other preventive 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,” he told reporters before the weekly cabinet meeting, where ministers were due to vote on the anti-Omicron measures.
According to reports, Israel would be putting together a Covid-19 safety plan and could limit admission to the pageant from countries deemed to be high-risk.
On Sunday, Indonesia withdrew its participation from Miss Universe due to “tight preparation time and local Covid-19 restrictions”. Indonesia joins Malaysia, Barbados and Laos, who have all pulled out of the competition citing reasons relating to Covid-19.
Miss South Africa 2021 Lalela Mswane arrived in Israel on Sunday, despite the South African government withdrawing its support, saying: “First day of Miss Universe 2021 and oh how wonderful it was! Met a lot of my fellow contestants and these women are absolutely phenomenal! Cannot wait for what’s to come! Tomorrow is registration day!”
The annual beauty pageant has been marred with controversy since it was announced that this year’s competition would be hosted in Israel – which is accused of committing atrocities against Palestinians.