Experts Recommend Reopening Israel’s Skies ‘Within Two Weeks’

YERUSHALAYIM -
Travelers seen at the Ben Gurion International Airport. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israel’s skies could reopen as soon as mid-January, the committee of experts advising the Health Ministry on the coronavirus pandemic said on Sunday.

The committee, headed by Prof. Ran Balicer, met last week and reviewed a number of key restrictions, including those on Ben Gurion airport.

The airport has been shuttered to foreigners since the first Omicron case was discovered in Israel last month. In addition, more than 50 countries are labeled “red,” meaning that Israelis cannot visit them without special permission.

“The Omicron morbidity rate in the community – in those who did not return from abroad and their direct contacts – is increasing,” the experts determined. “The continued existence of aviation restrictions is only relevant as long as there is no widespread infection from Omicron in the community.”

The team said that the decision to close the skies was proven correct and bought Israel precious time to increase vaccination, purchase potentially life-saving drugs and allow the economy to fully operate.

The experts said that “in about a week and at most two weeks” widespread Omicron infection is expected in Israel, beyond the cases “imported from abroad.”

“We are rapidly approaching the point where this [travel] policy will no longer be beneficial due to a rapid increase in the local spread of the Omicron strain. Preparations should be made for its abolition,” they said.