Netanyahu pushes for closure of Ben Gurion airport to stem influx of corona strains

The prime minister’s last attempt to close the airport was on Dec. 21 in reaction to the spread of the UK variant of the disease.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pushing the Ministry of Health to recommend closing Ben Gurion International Airport in order to better cope with the corona pandemic.

Israel’s public broadcaster, Kan, reported on Monday that at a meeting on Sunday night Netanyahu urged the ministry to close the airport. The report says it’s the third time the prime minister has tried to bring about the airport’s closure.

The prime minister’s last attempt to close the airport was on Dec. 21 in reaction to the spread of the UK variant of the disease.

“I intend to close the skies as quickly as possible, like in the the first wave,” Netanyahu said at the time. “Foreign nationals will not enter the country. The mutation is spreading all over the world and we are testing its significance.”

Government ministers however rejected that proposal.

There have been two other variants making their way around the world – the South African and Brazilian.

Due to the discovery of the South African strain in Israelis returning from Dubai, Israel decided to send all returnees from the UAE into corona hotels upon their arrival. That decision went into effect on Sunday night.

Also forced into hotels are all passengers from the African continent, Central and South America, and large parts of the Far East, Kan reports.

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Despite Israel’s record-setting pace of vaccinations, it is dealing with a spike in the number of cases. Israel passed a grim milestone on Monday when it counted 4,005 coronavirus deaths since the outbreak started in February 2020.

To deal with the epidemic, Israel has instituted a strict lockdown. It will debate whether to extend the lockdown this week as it is set to expire on Thursday. Expectations are it will be extended at least through Sunday to prevent weekend gatherings, which the government fears would lead to another spike.