Coronavirus: Gov’t approves reopening of the skies


The coronavirus cabinet approved an outline to partially reopen the skies on Tuesday, allowing Israelis to enter and leave the country – starting Sunday – without permission and allowing those who return to quarantine at home instead of in a hotel.

Starting from Sunday, up to 3,000 citizens a day will be able to enter the country without requiring permission from the special governmental exemptions committee. The number and destinations of flights allowed to operate from Ben-Gurion International Airport will be determined by the Transportation Ministry in cooperation with the Health Ministry.

Those who return will need to undergo two corona tests, before boarding the flight and upon arrival, including those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from the virus.

As far as leaving the country is concerned, Israelis who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 will be able to travel abroad within the framework of the flights authorized, while those who are not fully vaccinated will still be required to apply for permission.

The police will be in charge of enforcing the mandatory quarantine. An additional 660 officers will be assigned to the task. At the same time, the government will advance the use of other technological means, such as the electronic bracelet, to ensure that people isolate at home.

Hotels will remain for those who cannot quarantine at home.

The Health, Transportation and Tourism ministries will continue to work on a framework to welcome vaccinated tourists to Israel. In the meantime, non-citizens who wish to enter Israel will still need to apply for a special permission.

The plan was reportedly approved in spite of the opposition of Health Ministry officials.

“We see many mutations out there, not just from New York,” Health Ministry Chief of Public Health Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis said during the meeting. “We must make sure that [the quarantine of] people who come in will not be just under police enforcement, otherwise we will find ourselves in a catastrophic situation in a month and we will ask ourselves how we allowed people in here carrying mutations. In such a situation the vaccination campaign may be proven useless. We must be careful.”

Earlier in the day, Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy said that the cabinet discussions were plagued with “election fever.”

“Everyone feels that these discussions are affected by election fever and impacted by it,” Levy said in an interview with Radio 103FM on Tuesday morning. “There is no question that the ministers come to advance their own interests and the interests of their ministries and that politics also play a role.”  

The reopening of the skies came a day after the government decided that the third phase of the exit strategy from the lockdown – the opening of restaurants and event halls – will begin on Sunday as planned.

Also on Tuesday, the R rate – or reproduction rate – stood at 0.97, marking a decrease after several days on the rise.

Maintaining the R rate at 1 or below is one of the criteria that the Health Ministry has set to allow relaxing restrictions, together with the number of people fully vaccinated and the number of patients in serious conditions. During the cabinet meeting on Monday, Netanyahu emphasized that the latter criteria are becoming more central than the first one, in light of the success of the vaccination campaign in the country.

However, health ministry officials, including coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash, expressed concern over the cabinet’s decision of moving forward with the plan to lift restrictions with the R rate increasing.

Some 4,802 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in Israel on Monday, with 5.4% of some 90,000 tests returning positive, according to the Health Ministry.

Of all those infected, 705 patients were in serious condition as of Tuesday night and 213 were on ventilators. The death toll rose overnight to 5,786.

At the same time, over 4.8 million Israelis have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, including 3.5 million who have received the second dose.

Read More:Coronavirus: Gov’t approves reopening of the skies

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