Israel Effectively Bans International Air Travel For The Rest Of January

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Israel may currently lead the world in terms of the percentage of the population that have been given their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine but the country has also seen a significant surge in new coronavirus cases in recent weeks and, with fears growing that a new and potentially more deadly variant of the virus is being imported into the country, Israel’s government has taken action.

Starting at midnight tonight (Monday, 25 January 2021), Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport will be closed to most incoming and outgoing passenger flights for the remainder of the month. Incoming cargo flights will not be affected but outgoing flights are set to be limited to people traveling for “medical treatment, essential work, legal proceedings, a funeral of a relative and traveling from one residence to another” and the director of Israel’s Health Ministry has the power to grant exceptions “for humanitarian or personal needs”.

The new ruling comes into place as reports emerge that between 26 December and 21 January only 33 percent of returning travelers followed Israel’s quarantine rules and as visitors and citizens returning from abroad are accused of importing new strains of the coronavirus that some appear to believe may be resistant to the vaccines that have been developed.

It should be stressed that we don’t yet appear to have any solid scientific evidence to support the theory that the current vaccines are less effective against one or more of the new coronavirus variants, but some of the new variants are unquestionably more contagious and, by extension, are therefore potentially capable of causing more deaths than the original variant.

As things stand, Israel’s ban on international flights is set to be in place through 31 January (which is when the country’s current lockdown restrictions are due to be reviewed) but with Prime Minister Netanyahu apparently in favor of a two-week ban rather than the one week ban that has been agreed, it won’t be much of a surprise if Ben Gurion airport remains closed into February.

Bottom Line

Israel will effectively close Ben Gurion airport at midnight tonight and will keep it closed through 31 January 2021 as it attempts to stem the inflow of new coronavirus strains that the government believes are being imported by travelers arriving into the country and flouting quarantine restrictions. As more places around the world face similar challenges to Israel, we probably shouldn’t be surprised if we see other countries following Israel’s lead in the coming weeks.