Israel is now completely cut off from the rest of the world by air after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he would ban all flights from entering the country. Netanyahu said the ban would remain in force until the Home Front Command of the Israel Defence Force (IDF) had been granted legal powers to force incoming passengers into a 14-day quarantine.
A United Airlines flight from Newark, due to land on Sunday was eventually cancelled after the flight ban was announced. Since the emergence of the Coronavirus pandemic, only Israeli citizens have been permitted to enter Israel and were expected to self-isolate for 14-days at home to stem the spread of COVID-19. But there has been evidence of people breaking the quarantine orders and putting others at risk.
Passengers who arrived on the same United Airlines flight on Saturday say they had signed health declarations which included a commitment to self-isolate for two weeks but no one bothered to collect the forms. Other passengers say temperature checks were patchy and some passengers were allowed to walk around the airport without any protective equipment.
As of Sunday, Israel has made the wearing of face masks outside the home mandatory but restrictions that make leaving the house remain stringent and Israeli’s are being instructed to stay indoors during Passover.
Israel was one of the first countries to impose strict immigration restrictions on inbound arrivals after COVID-19 started to become an international concern. Two weeks ago only three airlines were still serving the country because the restrictions – a 98 per cent reduction on the number of carriers usually flying to and from Israel.
Netanyahu will be looking to introduce a similar law to Australia where any new arrivals are forced to remain in a hotel for a 14-day quarantine. Until that law is introduced, the flight ban will remain in force.
Israeli national carrier El Al has cut the majority of its workforce and grounded all flights for several weeks amid the crisis. But a request for a $350 million bailout was rejected by the government last week despite the airline saying it couldn’t survive without State support.
The treasury, however, said El Al’s forecasts were unrealistic and has asked the airline to resubmit its request for state support.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.