Harnaaz Sandhu, of India, was named Miss Universe on Monday (December 13) in the Israeli resort of Eilat during a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the international pageant.
“I feel overwhelmed because it has been 21 years since India got Miss Universe crown and it is happening (again) right now.. I am ready to take the responsibility of the crown now,” Sandhu, who represented India in the pageant, said.
Israel hosted the contest in the Red Sea resort of Eilat amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and after imposing travel restrictions to try to stave off the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Sandhu urged people around the world to get vaccinated to help keep the borders open.
“With the support of Israel’s country we were able to organise this contest and I think wherever we go right now we have to make these things mandatory because this is the new normal. We need to take care of our vaccinations, about the COVID reports, because that’s how it is going to be and that is how we will be able to travel,” she said.
In the weeks leading up to the competition, contestants toured various sites in Israel, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and Judaism’s Western Wall.
Israel’s tourism ministry said that travel restrictions limited media and fan attendance at the pageant.