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Government lifts ban on outgoing flights for citizens

First easing of lockdown restrictions does away with measure that had only allowed those who bought ticket before September 25 to fly

Travelers at Ben Gurion International Airport, during a nationwide lockdown, October 12, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)
Travelers at Ben Gurion International Airport, during a nationwide lockdown, October 12, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)

Israel announced Thursday that it was lifting an unpopular ban on citizens flying out of the country, in an initial easing of the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

“As of Friday, October 16, 2020, the emergency ordinance restricting entry to the airport for those who have not met the defined criteria will be canceled,” a government statement said.

The flight ban was part of a slew of restrictions added on September 25 to reinforce a lockdown that began a week earlier.

The government has since allowed access to flights only to those who had bought their tickets prior to September 25.

Israelis and foreigners with a residency visa are allowed to fly into the country, but those landing from so-called “red countries” — those with high coronavirus rates — must observe a 14-day quarantine.

The nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, the Jewish state’s second since March, limited public prayer and placed strict curbs on demonstrations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, chairs an emergency meeting of senior ministers to decide on measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, July 16, 2020. (Chaim Tzach/GPO)

A meeting of the so-called coronavirus cabinet was expected Thursday to discuss a possible further easing of lockdown measures.

Israel has recorded close to 300,000 coronavirus infections and over 2,000 deaths, out of a population of nine million.

The rate of new infections, however, is easing, with 2,000 new cases reported on Wednesday, compared to more than 7,500 the day before the flight ban was introduced.

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