Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country will be “hermetically” sealed off from international flights for a week to prevent a highly contagious COVID-19 mutation from entering.
“We are hermetically sealing the country. Just this week, when Heaven is closed, we will vaccinate another million Israelis, ”Netanyahu said on Sunday at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting.
Ben Gurion Airport will be closed to international flights from midnight Monday through January 31, when national lockdown measures are expected to be relaxed, the Times of Israel reported.
Exceptions are allowed for cargo planes, emergency flights, and planes that cross Israeli airspace without landing, the news agency said.
A copy of the proposal approved by Cabinet members also stated that departures would be limited to those traveling for medical treatment, essential work, legal proceedings, a relative’s funeral, and traveling from one place of residence to another.
The director of the Ministry of Health can also grant exemptions for humanitarian or “special personal” reasons, the document says.
According to the leaks from the meeting, Netanyahu said the crackdown was necessary because of the “urgency of mutations in the world” and that unlike previous instances where “we closed the skies … now we are really closing, with no commercial flights or anything other exceptions. Close first. “
He claimed that “no country” had taken such important action after months in which the Israeli government’s immigration policy had been attacked as being too lax and responsible for importing many coronavirus cases.
During the meeting, ministers were shown a document from the Ministry of Health showing that only 33 percent of people who returned to Israel between December 26 and January 21 followed quarantine rules, the Walla news site reported.
The Ministry of Health reported on Sunday that five more cases of the South African variant of COVID-19 were found in travelers from South Africa and Dubai.
The ministry added that a total of 27 cases of the strain have been discovered in the country.
Meanwhile, local media reported that dozens of ultra-Orthodox passengers refused to wear face masks on a United Airlines flight from New York to Israel that landed on Friday.
Passenger Tali Tenenbaum described the flight as traumatic and told Radio 103FM that people were trying to stay away from the “coronavirus breeding ground” by going to the bathroom and being unable to eat or sleep.
Israeli police have clashed with ultra-Orthodox protesters in several major cities to vaccinate their populations against the deadly beetle.
Many large ultra-Orthodox sects have ignored security regulations and continued to open schools, pray in synagogues and hold mass weddings and funerals despite more extensive lockdown orders.
The ultra-Orthodox community is responsible for more than a third of Israeli coronavirus cases, despite making up just over 10 percent of the population.
“I expect all citizens of Israel to adhere to security guidelines. That includes all sectors, including the ultra-Orthodox, ”said Netanyahu, who will need ultra-Orthodox support in the upcoming national elections.
He said the majority of the community respected the safety guidelines and attributed the recent problems to a small minority who acted “unacceptably”.
In just one month, Israel vaccinated over a quarter of its 9.2 million people.
At the same time, the virus continues to roam the country, with officials confirming over 8,000 new cases a day on average.
With postal wires