One year later, with COVID-19 still filtering into our 2021, Israel has experienced a full spectrum of effects. While over half of the country has received their first vaccination given major campaign efforts, the Ben Gurion Airport remains shuttered, with some exceptions to the rule.
The airport was closed on January 25 as the country was digesting its third lockdown, and hoping to decrease the spreading of new strains of COVID which had been reported, specifically from the UK and South Africa. While the last lockdown officially ended on February 20, only 2,000 people per day were allowed to fly in, and only a few exceptions are allowed to fly out. Thousands of people are feeling the impact, not only trapped within Israel but also for the thousands abroad who are unable to fly home.
An exceptions committee was created to deal with the over 20,000 requests made to either enter or exit the country. Some immigrants wanted to go home and visit their families or say goodbye to sick relatives. Other Israelis simply wanted to come home.
As of Sunday, the skies will be open between Israel, New York, Paris, Frankfurt, and Kiev. Three thousand citizens will be allowed to enter, and 1,200 people will be allowed to fly out daily. Those who fly in may be forced to quarantine, and around 660 police officers will be assigned to ensuring people are isolated and will be enabled to use electronic bracelets.
The Prime Minister mentioned a March 6 partial opening date for the airport, and that there is a possibility for full re-opening on March 14. However, many allege that he is using the closure as a political tool to dissuade the 600,000 Israelis abroad from voting in the upcoming election on March 23, which will be the fourth election in two years. (Only those physically present in Israel can vote.)
With a limited amount of people allowed in, the Ministry of Health has reported that 1.2% are found positive within two weeks, yet only a third of all arrivals go into the “required” quarantine hotels. This speaks to the lack of control and trust that lives between people and the country’s leadership. Despite the major vaccination campaign, the corona crisis will continue if rules are relaxed and people are too.
This was proven by the thousands of gatherings that occurred illegally over Purim, which marked the last holiday of 2020 when life was on the edge of “normal.” Today, there are over 5,000 who have died, and there is a 5.4% infection rate, which has jumped up since Purim.