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Miss Universe contestant tests positive for COVID after landing in Israel

Organizers say the event will go ahead as planned in Eilat next weekend, and that most of the 80 contestants arrived before borders were shut to foreigners

A projected vision of the Miss Universe stage for the competition slated to be held in Eilat, on December 12, 2021. (Courtesy)
A projected vision of the Miss Universe stage for the competition slated to be held in Eilat, on December 12, 2021. (Courtesy)

Organizers of the Miss Universe pageant said Monday that a contestant tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Israel, which is pressing ahead with plans to host the pageant, despite closing its borders in the face of a newly detected variant.

They did not identify the contestant, and it was unclear if she had the Omicron strain, which has raised alarm worldwide and was detected in a traveler returning to Israel last week. Local media reports indicated that the contestant was Miss France Clémence Botino. Botino did not immediately confirm the news on her social media accounts.

The Miss Universe Organization said most of the 80 contestants participating in the pageant have already arrived in Israel, and that the event will be held as planned on December 12 in Eilat, with strict coronavirus protocols. The contestants will compete in national costumes, evening gowns, and swimwear, and will answer a series of interview questions.

Israel closed its borders to all foreign travelers over the weekend, one of several measures taken to prevent the spread of the new variant, after at least one case was detected, in a vaccinated traveler returning from Malawi. The variant was first identified in South Africa, but cases have since been detected in several European countries as well as Hong Kong and Australia.

The organizers said the contestant tested positive upon arrival in Israel and was taken to a government-run isolation hotel. She was fully vaccinated and had been tested prior to departure, they said.

Israel had hoped the pageant would help draw tourists and project an image of the country as a safe destination during the pandemic.

The pageant was already in the spotlight for being held in Israel, thanks to boycott calls against the country over its treatment of the Palestinians. Citing COVID, Malaysia had announced it would not send a contestant. And South Africa’s government said it was withdrawing support for the country’s representative over her participation in the event.

Both countries support the Palestinian cause.

Andrea Meza, the current Miss Universe, said the pageant should not be politicized, in an interview with The Associated Press in Jerusalem earlier this month.

“Everyone with different beliefs, with different backgrounds, with different cultures, they all come together and when you are in there you forget about politics, about your religion,” she said. “It’s just about embracing other women.”

Meza, 27, represents Mexico and was crowned in May, during a COVID-delayed ceremony in Florida, where contestants accessorized their sparkling gowns with face masks. She will hand over the crown in Eilat on December 12.

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