COVID-19 sign in front of plane
COVID-19 sign in front of planeiStock

The Israeli government voted Sunday afternoon to approve a new travel ban strictly limiting air travel into and out of the country.

The government voted to begin the near-total ban on all air travel into and out of the country on Monday night.

The decision comes a day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held deliberations on the plan with the Health Minister, Transportation Minister, head of the National Security Council, the directors-general of the Health and Transportation ministries, the coronavirus czar, the head of the Health Services in the Health Ministry, the head of the Civil Aviation Authority, the Attorney General, and other senior officials.

“We’re ahead of the whole world,” said Netanyahu at the opening of the meeting Sunday. “No other country has done what we’re going to do now. We are going to hermetically seal the country.”

“During this week of closed skies we will vaccinate another million Israelis.”

The plan approved by ministers in Sunday's vote will ban virtually all air travel starting Monday night, with the ban remaining in force through the end of January. Under the proposal, the government will be able to extend the travel ban beyond January 31st.

Passenger flights into and out of Israel will be cancelled, while cargo planes will still be permitted to land.

While travelers will be barred from entering Israel in nearly all cases, exceptions will be made for humanitarian cases on special chartered flights.

Travelers needing to leave the country will be allowed to fly from Ben Gurion International Airport only if they are granted special permission for “exceptional circumstances”.

Pnina Tamano-Shata (Blue and White), Israel's Immigration Minister, objected to the plan, noting that immigrants were slated to arrive in Israel en masse next week.

"There are immigrants who are supposed to come next week, and you're sending them to the Exceptions Committee."

Netanyahu said in response: "If there's a pandemic, we need to halt immigration. They can wait."