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Israel closing land crossings to slow virus spread

Israel said on Wednesday that it is closing its land crossings with Jordan and Egypt to travellers, in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus

AFP , Wednesday 27 Jan 2021
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Views: 1261

Israel said on Wednesday that it is closing its land crossings with Jordan and Egypt to travellers, in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The decision announced by the interior ministry follows the shutdown of the country's international airport, which took effect on Tuesday.

"To complete the joint efforts to prevent the increase in morbidity, Interior Minister Arye Deri announced that the land crossings will be closed to Israelis and foreigners," the ministry said in a statement.

The crossings to be closed are the Jordan River and Arava -- both with Jordan -- and Taba, which is a crossing with Egypt.

The order will take effect at 0400 GMT on Thursday and remain in place until at least Sunday, when the initial ban on air travel is due to expire too.

Deri said he ordered the crossings closed in order to prevent people seeking alternatives to flying into the country.

"The loophole here is clear, and could be exploited for entry via the land crossings, which would increase the dangers and prevent the accomplishment of the goal in the regulations," Deri said.

The Israeli-controlled Allenby crossing, located in the occupied West Bank and connecting with Jordan, which serves Palestinians from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, would be closed at 1500 GMT on Thursday and "until further notice", said COGAT, the Israeli body responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank.

COGAT said the decision, which was "part of the efforts to reduce the morbidity level in the region," was "made in coordination with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority."

Israel is in its third national coronavirus lockdown, initiated late December and extended earlier this month until January 31 due to a surge in Covid-19 deaths.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to extend it yet again in the coming days.

Shortly after Deri's order was issued, Netanyahu told the World Economic Forum that the border shutdown was to gain an advantage in the "arms race" against Covid-19 mutations, while the country rushed to administer vaccinations.

Shutting down land borders -- on top of the ban on flights -- would enable Israel "to inoculate millions of people in the time that I close the country, and try to win the race between mutation and vaccination," Netanyahu said.

Nearly 2.8 million Israelis have received the first of two shots of coronavirus vaccination, with half of that number already getting the second dose too.

The country has a population of nine million.

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