The Health Ministry has ignored recommendations of medical authorities, urging it to ban all flights from India due to the spread of a new coronavirus variant in the country, sources said Monday.
Israel last week confirmed it has logged eight cases of the Indian COVID-19 variant, which some fear might be more contagious than other strains and resistant to the vaccine.
The Health Ministry issued a travel warning to India, as well as seven other states with high coronavirus infection rates, but has so far stopped short of banning flights to and from the country.
Sources told Ynet the Health Ministry has been advised to completely halt arrival of all foreign nationals, including students and workers, from India. In addition, it was recommended that all Israeli nationals returning from India be placed in mandatory quarantine in state-run hotels.
However, having held internal discussions on the matter, the ministry refused to adopt any of the recommendations.
"Stopping flights from India is completely unnecessary," said one senior official at the ministry. "After all, people can still arrive via connection flights. It is better to have direct flights that will be easier for us to monitor," he said.
In the meantime, the head of Israel's national coronavirus response center, Tomer Lotan, in an interview with Ynet on Monday morning called Ben Gurion Airport "Israel's Achilles' heel".
“The issue of 'abroad' is still the Achilles' heel," he said. "We are constantly tightening this system, while at the same time not totally closing Israel's skies and complying with the instructions given to us by the High Court. This is a delicate and balanced policy that must be pursued over time."