Netanyahu again urges ‘close the skies as quickly as possible’ as virus mutation fears grow

“It is clear to us that we are at the start of a very rapid spread,” Netanyahu said of the new virus.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again insisted on Monday morning that the proper course of action in the wake of news about a mutation of the coronavirus in Britain was to shut down air travel to Israel.

Israel’s coronavirus cabinet on Sunday afternoon agreed unanimously to ban foreign nationals entering Israel from South Africa, Denmark and the UK.

Netanyahu would like the ban to go further.

“I asked to convene the Cabinet for one purpose and that is to close the skies. Since the meeting last night, the mutation has spread in very many countries and it is clear to us that we are at the start of a very rapid spread,” Netanyahu told the cabinet on Monday morning.

“The viral mass entering Israel must be reduced as much as possible even as in England they are currently checking what exactly this virus is, whether it is resistant to the vaccine and additional questions. In order to do this, I ask that we duplicate what we did during the first wave of the coronavirus: To close the skies as quickly as possible,” he said.

Netanyahu had warned on Sunday that passenger air traffic to Israel should be restricted to returning Israelis only and most outbound flights should be halted.

“This is an extreme step, but if there is a result [from the mutation], it will be difficult. There is no legal impediment to closing the sky except for the return of Israelis,” he had said.

Netanyahu met with a mixed reaction to his remarks at the Sunday meeting with the head of the coronavirus task force supporting him but the Transportation minister opposing, saying “there is no reason to close the skies.”

It’s unknown if the new variant of the virus is less vulnerable to the new vaccines that have just been released, or whether it’s more deadly. The new virus strain is more contagious, however.

There are 17 mutations in the new virus strain, most connected to the spike protein that allows the virus to infect human cells.