Friday, May 14, 2021

Israel ‘Shuts the Skies’ on Air Travel as COVID Variants Found | Aviation News

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

Israel on Sunday announced a weeklong ban on most inbound and outbound flights in an attempt to slow the spread of new variants of the novel coronavirus.

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

Exceptions will be made for freight and firefighting flights, as well as travel for medical treatment, funerals and legal proceedings.

A panel of officials from the Ministry of Health and the Interior will be able to issue exemptions on request “for humanitarian or personal needs,” the statement said.

The decision was made with the country during its third national coronavirus lockdown, initiated at the end of December and extended Tuesday until the end of the month due to an increase in the number of deaths from COVID-19.

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

“We are shutting the skies tight, with rare exceptions, to prevent the entry of viral mutations and to ensure that we move quickly on our vaccination campaign,” he said ahead of a cabinet meeting.

Swab samples are already taken from arriving passengers at Tel Aviv airport. Now Israel has banned inbound and outbound flights for a week, stepping up efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 and its new variants [Jack Guez/AFP]

The Department of Health later announced that it had identified cases of a variant of the coronavirus that originated in Los Angeles.

“In the Department of Health’s central virus lab, a Los Angeles variant was located using a sequencing process,” the department said in a statement.

“The person confirmed to have this variant infected four other people.”

Variants from South Africa and Great Britain have also been found in Israel.

Since the rollout of vaccinations last month, more than 2.5 million of Israel’s 9 million people have been vaccinated, according to the health ministry.

Israel began immunizing adolescents between the ages of 16 and 18 on Saturday, who are required to pass high school leaving exams.

Adi Cohen, 18, told AFP news agency on Sunday that she had “no other choice” but to be shot.

“I have my final exams in a few weeks, so I feel like I have to take it,” she said from a clinic in Jerusalem.

For 17-year-old Shai Ohaion, getting the jab will allow him to be close to his parents again.

“I came to be vaccinated so as not to have any more social distance at home. I cannot be close to my parents because they are vulnerable which makes the situation difficult, ”he said.

“I have come to support these efforts to end the coronavirus.”



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