An airport worker rolls luggage trolleys inside a deserted hall at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, on January 25, 2021. - The Israeli government decided to ban incoming and outgoing flights starting on January 25 at midnight for a week, in a bid to slow the spread of Covid-19 variants. Exceptions will be made for cargo and firefighting flights, as well as medical treatments, funerals and legal procedures. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

Israel on Tuesday closed its international airport to all flights as a one-week measure aimed at stopping the new coronavirus variants from entering the country.

The international Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv will remain closed until January 31, when the ban is expected to be lifted, the Airport Authority said in a statement.

The measure bans all incoming and outgoing flights, except for medical emergencies and attending legal procedures or a funeral of a relative, reports Xinhua news agency.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday that the goal of the ban is to stop the arrival of new coronavirus variants and curb the outbreak in the country, according to a statement released by his office.

Some health officials said the ban might be extended.

“Six days of airport closure will not suffice,” Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of Public Health Services, told the parliament’s Law and Justice Committee on Monday.

She said the Ministry wants to prevent the arrival of new variants before a large part of the population is vaccinated.

The country began a large-scale vaccination drive on December 20.

Israel has been under a third nationwide lockdown since December 19, 2020, which is expected to be lifted on January 31.

With a population of about 9 million people, Israel has so far reported a total of 606,365 coronavirus cases and 4,498 deaths.

–IANS

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