Israel ‘closes skies’ to air travel as COVID variants found

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Flights will be banned for a week, as government tries to curb spread of variants, protect vaccination campaign.

Israel is further restricting travel in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19 and the new variants that have emerged [Jack Guez/AFP]
Israel is further restricting travel in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19 and the new variants that have emerged [Jack Guez/AFP]

25 Jan 2021

Israel on Sunday announced a week-long ban on most incoming and outgoing flights in a bid to slow the spread of new variants of the novel coronavirus.

The measure will begin at midnight (22:00 GMT) from Monday into Tuesday and remain in effect until the following Sunday, a statement from the prime minister’s office

Exceptions will be made for cargo and firefighting flights, as well as trips for medical treatments, funerals and legal procedures.

A panel of health and interior ministry officials will be able to issue exemptions on request “for humanitarian or personal needs”, the statement said.

The decision came with the country in its third national coronavirus lockdown, initiated in late December and on Tuesday extended until the end of the month due to a surge in deaths from COVID-19.

Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had announced his government’s intention to close the airport, after variants of the coronavirus were detected among the rising numbers.

“We’re closing the skies hermetically, except for rare exceptions, to prevent the entry of virus mutations, and to ensure that we make swift progress with our vaccination campaign,” he said ahead of a cabinet meeting.

Later, the health ministry announced it had identified cases of a coronavirus variant originating in Los Angeles.

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