Israel Extends COVID Ban on Inbound and Outbound Flights Through March 6

Restrictions on regular flights were initially meant to be in effect until February 20

Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
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A traveler in Ben-Gurion International Airport, last month.
A traveler in Ben-Gurion International Airport, last month.Credit: David Bachar
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

Israel's coronavirus cabinet extended the restrictions banning inbound and outbound flights until March 6.

Under the ban, which was announced by the cabinet on January 25 and was supposed to be in effect until February 20, all regular flights aren't allowed to operate. Some "rescue" flights are allowed.

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Earlier this month the government drafted criteria for who will be given permission to return.

Israelis who meet the criteria and have tested negative for the coronavirus in the previous 72 hours will be allowed to return, and will need to commit in advance to spending at least 10 days at a government-run quarantine facility.

Israelis stuck abroad can apply for an exception if they meet the following criteria: They have an extremely urgent medical appointment that cannot be delayed; an immediate family member has died and they have a funeral to attend, or a family member has been injured and is hospitalized; the Israeli abroad is considered an essential worker at a job considered essential for keeping the country running, and they cannot work remotely or postpone work; they are part of a government delegation, or a government company delegation, returning from a brief trip abroad, or the Israeli went abroad to serve as an official Israeli representative in another capacity.

Israelis who meet these criteria will need to explain the humanitarian case behind their situation and submit documents to prove it.

Gradual opening of schools

A principal greeting a pupil as Israel reopens first to fourth grades, continuing to ease its second nationwide lockdown, at a school in Rehovot, November 1, 2020.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS

The government also agreed to allow more classes to open on Sunday as additional lockdown restrictions are lifted. Students in grades 5-7 and 11-12 will return to school in “green,” “yellow” and “orange” communities, where at least 70 percent of the residents ages 50 and older have been vaccinated.

Students in grades 7-10 will return to school only on March 7, officials from the education and health ministries and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided Thursday. Education Minister Yoav Gallant had demanded that students in grades 7-10 also return to to school on Sunday, with the opening of stores and shopping centers. These students have attended school for a total of only about a month since the beginning of the year, and even then it was only for a few days a week.

However, the Health Ministry and Netanyahu turned Gallant down. The decision to bring them back to school from March 7 is in keeping with the Health Ministry’s initial plan for a gradual easing of the lockdown, and the ministry’s officials objected to the education minister’s demand to deviate from the plan.

The prime minister’s aides said, “In view of the relatively extensive opening of the country, which could lead to a rise in infection, and in view of the fears of the British variant’s effect and increased infection of children and youths who aren’t vaccinated, it has been decided at this stage to take a cautious approach and stick to the Health Ministry’s plan to emerge from the lockdown.”

When the vaccination drive began, teachers demanded to be classified as a priority group, yet more than a third of the country’s teachers are not vaccinated, according to figures provided by the HMOs Clalit and Maccabi.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Thursday that anyone who uses a fake vaccination certificate to gain access to restricted venues would be liable to penalties and is risking a prison sentence.
“We understand there are ways to forge vaccination certificates, we’re not blind,” Edelstein said at a news conference in Airport City.

“Anyone who thinks it’s a game and prints a vaccination certificate even though he wasn’t vaccinated, will ultimately be caught and this can end in prison. There’s a long list of clauses in the law that enable it. You should be very careful.”

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