Israel Extends COVID Lockdown Through Friday Morning; Airport to Remain Closed for One More Week

Ben-Gurion International Airport will remain shut for another week, while overland borders will remain closed until Tuesday at midnight

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Tel Aviv beach, January 31, 2021.
Tel Aviv beach, January 31, 2021.Credit: Moti Milrod

The cabinet decided Sunday night to extend Israel's third nationwide lockdown through Friday at 7 A.M, with Ben-Gurion International Airport remaining closed for another week. Israel's overland borders will remain closed until Tuesday at midnight.

Netanyahu and Health Ministry officials initially sought to extend the lockdown by one week, but Defense Minister Benny Gantz and ministers from his Kahol Lavan party pushed to end it on Wednesday at midnight and partially open the economy as soon as Thursday.

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The current lockdown was due to expire on Sunday at midnight. The cabinet will convene again on Wednesday to discuss a plan for exiting the lockdown.

Netanyahu spoke ahead of the meeting about gradually opening the education system.

"I've had discussions with the health and education ministers to allow for a gradual opening of the education system and businesses in the coming days, starting with the lower grades," Netanyahu said.

Kahol Lavan party leader and Defense Minister Benny GantzCredit: Shmulik Grossman/Knesset spokesman

The prime minister added that another million vaccine doses are expected to arrive in Israel in a week. He called on people aged 50 and older to get vaccinated and the general public to observe COVID-19 guidelines.

The Health Ministry, however, wants to maintain the stringent restrictions in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Earlier, the Knesset passed a law increasing fines for those who violate COVID-19 guidelines, a condition set by Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz for extending the lockdown.

Gantz told the Knesset that he intended to demand a return to the “traffic light” policy under which restrictions are imposed on cities and communities based on infection rates. “We’ll start with a gradual opening based on the level of infection and vaccination rates, and we’ll help the communities that need (help) with whatever is required,” he said.

Gantz noted that along with the discussion on extending the lockdown, there must be decisions made on how to exit it.

“This means that within a relatively short time we'll start activating the ‘green passport’ in tourism, culture and commerce,” he said, so that “those who are vaccinated can slowly adjust to (a new) coronavirus routine, and we will prepare now for the controlled opening of Ben-Gurion Airport with the appropriate testing and quarantines. These tests are necessary to allow Israelis who must return to Israel to do so immediately, after being tested."

"Israeli children who are sitting at home will start to return to their studies and we will make sure they have the proper health and educational support. Business owners will slowly be able to reopen and serve those who have been vaccinated,” Gantz said.

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