Israel bans international flights to curb coronavirus spread
By Dan Williams JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel will ban passenger flights in and out of the country from Monday evening for a week as it seeks to stop the spread of new coronavirus variants. 'Other than rare exceptions, we are closing the sky hermetically to prevent the entry of the virus variants and also to ensure that we progress quickly with our vaccination campaign,' Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in public remarks at the start of a cabinet meeting. The ban will come into force from Monday at 2200 GMT and last until the end of January, a statement from Netanyahu's office said
By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel will ban passenger flights in and out of the country from Monday evening for a week as it seeks to stop the spread of new coronavirus variants.
"Other than rare exceptions, we are closing the sky hermetically to prevent the entry of the virus variants and also to ensure that we progress quickly with our vaccination campaign," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in public remarks at the start of a cabinet meeting.
The ban will come into force from Monday at 2200 GMT and last until the end of January, a statement from Netanyahu's office said.
The country's borders have largely been closed to foreigners during the pandemic, with only Israeli passport holders allowed entry.
Also on Sunday, Israel expanded its rapid vaccination drive to include late teens. The vaccines were initially limited to the elderly and other high-risk categories, but are now available to anyone over 40 or - with parental permission - those between 16 and 18.
The inclusion of late teens is meant "to enable their return (to school) and the orderly holding of exams," the Education Ministry spokeswoman said.
Israel awards a matriculation certificate to high school students in grades 10-12 who pass exams, administered by the Education Ministry, that play a major role in acceptance to universities. They can also affect placement in the military, where many Israelis do compulsory service after high school.
Israel has the world's fastest vaccine distribution rate. With regular imports of Pfizer Inc. vaccines, it has administered at least one dose to more than 25% of its 9 million population since Dec. 19, the Health Ministry says.
The country has been under a third national lockdown since Dec. 27, which it plans to lift at the end of January. Critics say the government has mishandled the crisis, lacking a clear long-term strategy and allowing politics to cloud its decisions.
Education Minister Yoav Galant, speaking on Ynet TV, said it was too early to know if schools would reopen next month.
(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell; Writing by Maayan Lubell and Dan Williams; Editing by Frances Kerry)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.