Israeli Health minister denies plans to shutter airport, other restrictions remain on table

As Covid cases continue to rise, Nitzan Horowitz denies plans to close Ben-Gurion; other travel restrictions may be introduced.

By World Israel News Staff

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz denied Israel is planning to shut down Ben Gurion International Airport to stem the rising tide of Covid-19 infections.

With passengers arriving daily, the airport has long been viewed as the weakest link in Israel’s battle against the pandemic.

“We are not talking about closing down Ben-Gurion Airport,” he said during a meeting with with Economy Minister Orna Barbivai, Tourism Minister Yehiel Tropper, and other senior health and finance officials.

“Our approach has been and remains to take steps to curb the spread with minimal damage to the economy and maintaining routine daily life,” Horowitz said. “Yes, it is likely that more countries will soon be added to the blacklist. There is no getting around this. Arrivals and departures from Israel will be closely monitored, but we will not close the airport, we are not talking about it,” Horowitz said.

According to Channel 12, the Ministry of Health may recommend closing the airport except for essential travel. Alternative proposals reportedly being mulled include mandatory quarantine for arriving passengers regardless of their vaccination status or what country they flew in from, and to expand the number of countries Israelis are barred from traveling to.

On Monday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said one million Israelis eligible for vaccinations have not yet done so.

“Those who do not get vaccinated endanger themselves, endanger their family, endanger their friends, endanger the livelihoods of those around them and endanger the opening of the school year,” Bennett said.

The Prime Minister also asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to examine the legal implications of a proposal for police to enforce quarantine through phones. The government is considering a plan for SMS messages to be sent to people who required to quarantine. By tapping a link in the SMS, the police would know the individual’s location.

Meanwhile, Haaretz reported concerns in the Health Ministry that the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness against the Delta variant may not be as strong as initially thought.

Earlier in July, the vaccine was reported to be 64 percent effective at preventing infection, and 93% effective at preventing serious infection. But new figures presented by the Gertner Institute of Tel Aviv’s Sheba Medical Center suggest the vaccine’s effectiveness against Delta erodes the more time passes after the two shots.

On Monday, the Health Ministry announced that 829 new Covid cases were reported on Sunday. Israel is currently dealing with 6,952 active cases, of which 66 are serious. Twelve of those patients are on ventilators. Since July 18, two Israelis have died of Covid-19.

An overall 6,450 Israelis have died of Covid.