COVID-19: Gov’t fights over airport amid warnings of ‘election fever’


Government officials started to fight over the outline to reopen Ben Gurion International Airport on Tuesday, ahead of a cabinet meeting devoted to the topic.

Health Ministry officials reportedly opposed the plan prepared by Transportation Minister Miri Regev, a few hours after Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy said that the cabinet discussions were plagued with “election fever.”

The current restrictions – in place until Saturday – prevent Israelis from leaving or entering the country unless they receive special permission from the appointed governmental exemptions committee.

As reported by channel 12, the outline conceived by Regev would initially select some destinations – New York, Paris, Frankfurt and Kiev – where Israelis who are vaccinated or recovered from the virus would be allowed to fly without a permission from the committee, starting from Sunday.

Those who are not, including children, would still need to receive approval.

Moreover, up to 3,000 people could enter the country every day without a permission, so that Israelis abroad who wish to vote in the upcoming March 23 elections can do so.

The requirement for a coronavirus test within 72 hours before boarding and after landing will remain effective and those who are not inoculated will be able to choose between isolation in a hotel or at home while wearing an electronic bracelet, the report added.

According to the report, health officials requested to wait until after the holiday of Passover, before allowing those eligible to the green passport to leave the country freely.

The coronavirus cabinet was set to convene on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the reopening of the borders a day after the government confirmed that the third phase of the exit strategy from the lockdown – the opening of restaurants and event halls – will begin on Sunday as planned.

“Everyone feels that these discussions are affected by election fever and impacted by it,” Levy said in an interview with Radio 103FM. “There is no question that the ministers come to advance their own interests and the interests of their ministries and that politics also play a role.”  

During the meeting on Monday, Netanyahu reportedly expressed concern that if the government decides to allow Israelis to enter the country to vote, many “hitchhikers” will try to enter and therefore potentially spread the coronavirus.

On the other hand, Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata told the ministers that the upcoming election was not the only reason to allow Israelis into the country and that “basic rights were being undermined with many Israelis becoming refugees in countries against their will,” –

Also on Tuesday, the R rate – or reproduction rate – stood at 0.97, marking a decrease after several days on the rise.

Maintaining the R rate at 1 or below is one of the criteria that the Health Ministry has set to allow relaxing restrictions, together with the number of people fully vaccinated and the number of patients in serious conditions. During the cabinet meeting on Monday, Netanyahu emphasized that the latter criteria are becoming more central than the first one, in light of the success of the vaccination campaign in the country.

However, health ministry officials, including coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash, expressed concern over the cabinet’s decision of moving forward with the plan to lift restrictions with the R rate increasing.

Some 4,624 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in Israel on Monday, with 5.2% of tests returning positive, according to a Tuesday morning update by the Health Ministry.

Of all those infected, 729 patients were in serious condition and 234 were on ventilators. The death toll rose overnight to 5,779.

At the same time, over 4.7 million Israelis have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, including 3.4 million who have received the second dose.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.

The cabinet discussions on the reopening of Ben Gurion International Airport are plagued with “election fever,” Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy said on Tuesday. The coronavirus cabinet will convene on Tuesday afternoon to discuss a plan to reopen the skies, a day after the government confirmed that the third phase of the exit strategy from the lockdown – the opening of restaurants and event halls – will begin on Sunday as planned.”Everyone feels that these discussions are affected by election fever and impacted by it,” Levy said in an interview with Radio 103FM. “There is no question that the ministers come to advance their own interests and the interests of their ministries and that politics also play a role.” It was a strong warning from one of Israel’s top health officials. 

  

As far as Ben-Gurion Airport is concerned, the current restrictions – in place until Saturday – prevent Israelis from leaving or entering the country unless they receive special permission from the appointed governmental exemptions committee.

The issue has also become especially urgent in light of the need to allow Israelis abroad to vote in the upcoming elections on March 23.

During the meeting on Monday, Netanyahu reportedly expressed concern that if the government decides to allow Israelis to enter the country to vote, many “hitchhikers” will try to enter and therefore potentially spread the coronavirus.

On the other hand, Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata told the ministers that the upcoming election was not the only reason to allow Israelis into the country and that “basic rights were being undermined with many Israelis becoming refugees in countries against their will,” – according to Ynet.

According to a report by Channel 13, the outline to reopen the skies conceived by Transportation Minister Miri Regev would allow all Israelis who decide to come back to vote and all those who wish to leave the country to do so, starting from Sunday. The Health Ministry will be in charge of determining destinations with dangerous outbreaks from where people will not be allowed to fly back to Israel. At the beginning, some 3,000 people will be let in every day, with an option to raise the number.

While the figure represents an increase of the current numbers of people allowed in – some 2,000 per day – it is still a small fraction of the thousands of passengers that would fly to Ben-Gurion every day before restrictions were imposed.

In addition, the plan would allow vaccinated Israelis who return from abroad not to isolate upon their arrival, while those who are not inoculated will be able to choose between isolation in a hotel or at home while wearing an electronic bracelet, the report added. The requirement for a coronavirus test within 72 hours before boarding and after landing will remain effective.

Also on Tuesday, the R rate – or reproduction rate – stood at 0.97, marking a decrease after several days on the rise.

Maintaining the R rate at 1 or below is one of the criteria that the Health Ministry has set to allow relaxing restrictions, together with the number of people fully vaccinated and the number of patients in serious conditions. During the cabinet meeting on Monday, Netanyahu emphasized that the latter criteria are becoming more central than the first one, in light of the success of the vaccination campaign in the country.

However, health ministry officials, including coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash, expressed concern over the cabinet’s decision of moving forward with the plan to lift restrictions with the R rate increasing.

Some 4,624 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in Israel on Monday, with 5.2% of tests returning positive, according to a Tuesday morning update by the Health Ministry.

Of all those infected, 729 patients were in serious condition and 234 were on ventilators. The death toll rose overnight to 5,779.

At the same time, over 4.7 million Israelis have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, including 3.4 million who have received the second dose.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.





Read More: COVID-19: Gov’t fights over airport amid warnings of ‘election fever’

2021-03-02 15:13:00

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