No plans to ease overseas travel restrictions in near future

Report: Israel tells airlines its entry ban on foreigners now extended to May 16

Notice comes as increasing number of carriers announce plans to resume flights to Israel next month

The empty departure halls of Ben Gurion Airport on March 8, 2020. (Flash90)
The empty departure halls of Ben Gurion Airport on March 8, 2020. (Flash90)

Airlines have been informed that an Israeli entry ban on foreign nationals will be extended until May 16, a report Monday said, potentially scuttling the plans of companies that have announced in recent days they’ll soon restore service to the country.

According to a story in financial daily Globes, airlines were informed of the extension in a notice to airmen, or NOTAM, a system meant to alert pilots to any risks at the locations to which they are traveling.

The report did not say who filed the notice.

Numerous airlines have announced in recent days that they planned to resume flights to Israel as soon as next month, as global travel begins to ramp back up following an unprecedented shutdown brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the continued ban on non-Israeli nationals from entering could deter airlines from flying to the country, as could restrictions on foreigners in other countries.

The Health Ministry told Globes on Sunday that there were no plans to ease overseas travel restrictions in the immediate future.

“The matter will be considered soon in the event that the decline in the extent of contagion continues,” the ministry said.

The empty arrivals hall at Ben Gurion International Airport on April 12, 2020. (Flash90)

Besides Delta Airlines and budget carrier Wizz Air, British Airways, Air Canada, Air India and Alitalia have all announced plans to soon resume flights to Israel.

El Al said Sunday that it was arranging one-off flights to and from London, Paris, and Miami later this week, but that its normal flights will remain suspended until May 9 at the earliest.

International air travel worldwide is down some 80 percent, according to a recent report from the International Air Transport Association, which predicted over $300 billion in losses for the airline sector due to the COVID-19 crisis.

In Israel, air travel has all but shut down, with only a handful of flights weekly, including a daily route to Newark, New Jersey, flown by United Airlines. United is set to reintroduce Tel Aviv-San Francisco flights, Globes reported over the weekend.

Grounded El Al planes are seen at Ben Gurion Airport on April 6, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Since April 12, all people arriving in Israel from overseas are required to be housed at state-run quarantine hotels upon entry to the country for 14 days.

Last week, an Israeli man who had tested positive for COVID-19 managed to board a flight from New York to Israel while hiding his illness, prompting concern that others on the plane may have contracted the virus as well.

The man, a kashrut supervisor from the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, was taken to a different facility than the others on the plane, who will all be tested, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel on Saturday evening.

The official said the US planned to suspend the man’s visa and the Israeli Health Ministry was looking to file a police complaint against him.

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