By ROSSELLA TERCATIN JANUARY 24, 2021 22:14
Ben-Gurion Airport will completely close until the end of the month starting Monday at midnight. The cabinet approved the decision in a meeting on Sunday.
The push to impose further restrictions on travel to and from Israel comes against the backdrop of new revelations about the infectiousness and suspected increased lethality of novel coronavirus variants that have developed in several areas around the world.
Travelers will be prevented from entering or leaving the country except in cases approved by a special committee. The ban on entering Israel includes new immigrants making aliyah, marking the first time that immigration under the Law of Return has been halted in the history of the country. Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata opposed the move during the cabinet meeting.
“We are sealing our skies, except for limited exceptions, in order to prevent the entry of the virus mutations, and also to ensure that we progress quickly with our vaccination campaign… so that more Israelis are vaccinated soon,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during the meeting.
According to the outline approved by the government, no foreign planes will be allowed into the country except for cargo planes, firefighting planes and flights devoted to medical evacuation.
Moreover, the licenses of Israeli airlines have been temporarily suspended. No one will be allowed to leave the country except for receiving medical treatments, participating in legal proceedings or to attend the funeral of a relative. Other requests for humanitarian reasons will be examined and approved on an ad-hoc basis by the directors-general of the Health and Transportation ministries.
The closure of the skies is set to expire on January 31, when the currently reinforced lockdown is also scheduled to end. After the government’s decision, El Al Israel Airlines announced that it would allow its customers who have purchased tickets up to February 15 to annul them and get reimbursed, Israeli media reported.