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Coronavirus: Gov’t to introduce bill to keep airport closed – report

CM 02/02/2021

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The government intends to introduce a bill to the Knesset that would allow the authorities to keep Ben-Gurion Airport closed for long periods of time, Kan news reported on Tuesday.Ben-Gurion has been closed since January 25 as a measure to prevent people infected with new coronavirus variants from entering the country. The restriction is currently due to expire on February 7. According to Kan, senior government officials said that the bill will give the cabinet the power to shut down the airport also in the future if needed.Some 8,261 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported on Monday, according to a Tuesday morning update by the Health Ministry. The figure represents the highest number in a week, raising concern among health officials that the infections might be on the rise again, after the reproduction rate, or R rate, which measures the ability of the disease to spread is also increasing. It currently stands at 0,97. When the R rate equals 1, each patients on average infects another person. It currently stands at 0,97. When the R rate equals 1, each patient on average infects another person. Some 9.2% of tests on Monday returned positive. As of Tuesday morning, of those infected, 1,094 were in serious condition and 316 were on ventilators, while the death toll rose to 4,816. Some 3,100,000 million Israelis had received the coronavirus vaccine with 117,000 inoculated on Monday. In total, 1,790,000 Israelis have received both doses of the vaccine.In light of the severity of the situation, Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch told Israeli website Ynet that it would be a mistake to lift the current lockdown on Friday morning – when it is currently due to expire – or even on Sunday, according to the original request of the Health Ministry.Asked if there is a chance that the education system will open again on Sunday, he responded that “there are some good days until Sunday, if I had to decide if to open tomorrow I would not be in favor. If in a few more days we start to see a decline in critical patients and it looks like the vaccines are effective, it would be possible to consider ending the lockdown.”In light of the uncertainties regarding the behavior of the variants, the effectiveness of the vaccine against them and the ability of those vaccinated to still spread the virus, authorities are also considering canceling the exemption from quarantine for those returning from abroad who are already considered immunized – meaning that at least a week has passed since they received their second shot.

“We see cases of people who returned from abroad and became infected after being vaccinated,” Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of the Health Ministry’s Public Health Services, said Monday during a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. “So we are reevaluating the whole matter.”On Tuesday, some rescue flights for Israelis stranded abroad are set to take place, after the establishment of a committee to approve applications for arrival into Israel while the borders are closed headed by Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz.Israir announced that following the authorization of the committee, the airline would operate a flight from Tel Aviv to Frankfurt and one from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv on Tuesday. Such flights were originally scheduled for Sunday and then postponed pending instructions from the authorities.Israir’s website currently sells tickets for additional flights to Frankfurt on Wednesday and Thursday.In order to fly however, passengers are required to be granted a special permission from the committee, as well as to present a negative COVID-19 test performed not earlier than 72 hours before the flight. The criteria established by the committee to be eligible for a permission include receiving essential medical treatment, attending the funeral of a first degree family member or a medical emergency involving a first degree family member and carrying out essential work on behalf of the State of Israel, returning from a government’s sponsored mission.The committee could also consider additional humanitarian cases related to the first three conditions based on their urgency and necessity.

Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman contributed to this report.
Source: Jerusalem Post

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