Israel ‘hermetically’ sealing off for two weeks, as students start getting jabs
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Israel ‘hermetically’ sealing off for two weeks, as students start getting jabs

National vaccination drive starts focusing on 16-to-18 year olds to allow them to sit exams and not disrupt their plans for university or the army

A medical worker prepares a vaccine against the COVID-19 at a municipality vaccine center in Tel Aviv, Israel, Dec. 31, 2020. (Gideon Markowicz/JINI via Xinhua)
A medical worker prepares a vaccine against the COVID-19 at a municipality vaccine center in Tel Aviv, Israel, Dec. 31, 2020. (Gideon Markowicz/JINI via Xinhua)

Israeli students in exam years began receiving their Covid-19 vaccinations this week as the country announced that it was sealing itself off “hermetically” for two weeks.

The national vaccination drive, which is the fastest in the world, began focussing on 16 to 18-year-olds after the health ministry said more than a quarter of the country had received at least one dose.

Having the jab will let the students take exams and therefore avoid disrupting the process of going to university or starting military service.

It comes as new rules took effect banning passenger flights into Israel, as the cabinet took drastic action to stop the spread of new and more contagious coronavirus variants which British scientists say may be more deadly.

The only exemptions to the ban will be foreign cargo planes, firefighting planes and medical emergency flights, with Transport Minister Miri Regev saying people making aliyah would also need to postpone “unless it is a matter of life and death”.

Last week Israeli ministers issued a decree stating that all arrivals into Ben-Gurion Airport would need to show a negative Covid-19 test result no less than 72 hours before, but this week went much further, banning all incoming commercial flights.

“We are hermetically sealing the country,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday. “No country has done what we are about to do. We are ahead of the entire world.”

Israel was one of the first countries to initiate a national coronavirus lockdown, for which it received credit, but – by ministers’ own admission – reopened too early, causing a devastating second wave of infections and mass economic disruption.

Elsewhere this week Health Minister Yuli Edelstein was forced to field increasing questions asking why Israel was not offering the vaccine to Palestinians. He told the Andrew Marr Show that it was not Israel’s job to do so.

The United Nations and the World Health Organisation have both urged Israel to help. Edelstein said it was “not our legal obligation, but our interest to make sure Palestinians get the vaccine, that we don’t have COVID-19 spreading”.

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