The British government has removed Israel from its travel corridors list, hours after the head of the NHS said the UK could learn from Israel’s vaccination programme.
Transport Secretary Grant Schapps removed the Jewish state along with several African countries, citing a “sustained and accelerating increase” in cases, “similar in trajectory to the UK”.
Passengers arriving from Israel from 4am on Saturday will now have to self-isolate for ten days with their household, as London’s mayor Sadiq Khan called for “urgent and rigorous” Covid-19 testing at airports and ports to curb the spread of the virus.
The Scottish government also removed Israel from its travel corridor, raising hackles by listing ‘Israel’ and ‘Jerusalem’ as separate.
“Travellers arriving in Scotland from Israel and Jerusalem must now quarantine on arrival for 10 days,” the Scottish government website read.
“A significant increase in cases of Covid-19 [in Israel] as well as a rise in the numbers of cases testing positive, and the associated risk of importation into Scotland has led to the decisions to remove exemption status.”
Israel entered a much stricter lockdown at midnight on Wednesday, with the entire school system returned to remote learning, exempting special needs education.
All places of employment and the entire commercial sector have been closed, aside from essential businesses, and while delivery services will continue, collection is not allowed.
Israelis have been told that they cannot travel more than two thirds of a mile from their home and are prohibited from staying in someone else’s home. Flights are now only allowed for essential needs only. A maximum of five people can meet indoors and ten people outdoors.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is hoping to win an election in March, has said that all Israelis over the age of 16 will be vaccinated by the end of that month, promising that “Israel will be the first country in the world to emerge from the coronavirus”.
He said: “As part of the agreement with Pfizer, we decided that Israel will be a global model state for the rapid vaccination of an entire country. To this end, we have brought forward the arrival of the vaccines and also increased their number. We truly are a light onto the nations.”
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said 18 percent of the population had now received the first dose, including all medical staff and 70 percent of the at-risk population. “We are the first country to achieve that,” he said.
Israeli police this week said they would levy fines on anyone caught violating quarantine restrictions of NIS 5,000 (£1,155), with an additional NIS 1,000 (£231) fine for refusing an order to disperse and NIS 500 (£115) for not wearing a mask.
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