Fri, 05 Mar 2021

© Provided by Xinhua | A passenger wearing a protective suit and mask walks at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Jan. 19, 2021. (Gideon Markowicz/JINI via Xinhua)

JERUSALEM, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel is going to be "shut down hermetically" for about a week, citing fears for the arrival of new coronavirus variants.

"We are closing the country hermetically," Netanyahu said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting, according to a statement issued by his office.

He urged the ministers to approve a proposal to close Israel's international Ben Gurion Airport and cease all outgoing and incoming international flights.

The new variants pose "an urgent" need to impose drastic measures. "One variant that arrives without been caught will cause exponential infections," he said.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that his ministry "worries" about the arrival of new variants. "One of the new variants is already in Israel and is clearly partly responsible for the high infection numbers."

Israel is on its third nationwide lockdown, which started on Dec. 19, 2020 and is expected to be lifted on Jan. 31.

With a population of about 9 million people, Israel reported on Sunday morning overall 595,097 infections and 4,361 deaths.

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