Skies to Be Closed by Jewish State in Virus Battle
The departures hall at Ben-Gurion Airport stands desolate on March 11 following travel restrictions over coronavirus. (Maya Margit / The Media Line)

Skies to Be Closed by Jewish State in Virus Battle

Israel’s battle with the raging coronavirus pandemic continued on Sunday as the government convened to approve a two-week closure of the country’s lone international airport. The move, which critics and health officials say was needed months ago, was in the past met with opposition by lawmakers who feared political retribution. Chief among these was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, currently running for re-election, who has encouraged tourist flights to the United Arab Emirates, a new friend of Israel after the recently signed normalization agreement. In the fall, Netanyahu also allowed dozens of flights from New York and Ukraine, containing ultra-Orthodox pilgrims returning from High Holiday trips abroad, to enter the country, at the insistence of his coalition partners. Over the past few days, violent clashes between ultra-Orthodox citizens and police upholding lockdown instructions have erupted all over the country, as some factions in the highly segregated, densely populated community refuse to accept the Israeli government’s decrees and restrictions. The positivity rate of coronavirus tests over the weekend remained close to 9% in Israel, with approximately 40 people dying every day in the past two weeks, by far the highest daily total since the pandemic began.

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