Tel Aviv, Jan 25 | The Israeli cabinet has approved a ban on incoming and outgoing passenger flights to prevent the spread of new coronavirus variants.
The shutdown will come into effect at midnight between Monday and Tuesday and will last until January 31, according to a statement issued on Sunday by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Arrivals will be banned and landings will be permitted only in a few exceptions including cargo flights, medical emergencies, and fire service flights, reports Xinhua news agency.
Departures will also be banned except for medical emergencies, legal procedures and attending a funeral of a relative.
“We are closing today the (international) Ben Gurion Airport,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the beginning of the cabinet meeting.
“We are closing the skies hermetically,” Netanyahu said, adding that the measure was taken to prevent the spread of new coronavirus variants as they pose “an urgent” need to impose drastic measures.
“One variant that arrives without been caught will cause exponential infections,” he said.
The Prime Minister further said that the move was needed also to “ensure the fast advancement” of Israel’s large-scale vaccination drive.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that his Ministry “worries” about the arrival of new variants.
“One of the new variants is already in Israel and is clearly partly responsible for the high infection numbers.”
Israel has been under a third nationwide lockdown since December 19, 2020, which is expected to be lifted on January 31.
With a population of about 9 million people, Israel has so far reported a total of 595,097 Covid-19 cases and 4,361 deaths.