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Israel And Morocco Snap Borders Shut Over New Variant

Israel and Morocco are closing their borders to outsiders as they bunker down to ride out the latest COVID-19 threat. Israel closed its borders to non-citizens for two weeks at midnight Sunday. Morocco is suspending all incoming flights on Monday, also for two weeks.

Israel and Morocco are closing their borders for two weeks. Photo: Boeing

Israel & Morocco the first to close their borders

On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he would ban all foreigners from entering Israel for 14 days. Israelis can still fly in but under strict conditions. Fully vaccinated Israelis will spend at least three days in quarantine, while unvaccinated Israelis will have 14 days in quarantine to get over their jetlag.

Israel was the first country to close its borders to outsiders as a result of the Omicron outbreak. But Morocco soon followed suit. On Sunday, the North African nation said it would ban all flights into the country from midnight on Monday.

In a social media posting, Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs attributed the decision to the “rapid spread of the COVID-19 new variant – Omicron, particularly in Europe and Africa, and in order to preserve the gains made by Morocco in the fight against the pandemic and protect citizens.”

Both countries had previously banned arrivals from hotspot countries in southern Africa. On Sunday night, Moroccan flag carrier Royal Air Maroc suspended its international flights for two weeks. A travel advisory on the airline’s website says;

“Following the decision of the Moroccan Authorities, Royal Air Maroc international flights from and to Morocco are canceled in both directions from November 29th, 2021 at 23:59, till December 13th, 2021 at 23:59.”

Royal Air Maroc is suspending all of its international flying for two weeks. Photo: Boeing

Emirates defers inaugural Tel Aviv flights

Across in Tel Aviv, an immediate casualty of the border closure was Emirates. On Sunday, the Dubai-based airline said it would indefinitely defer its inaugural December 6 flight between Dubai and Tel Aviv.

“The postponement comes as a result of recent changes in entry protocols issued by the Israeli government. The airline is committed to launching services to Tel Aviv as soon as the situation allows,” an Emirates statement reads.

Israel only re-opened its borders to fully vaccinated tourists earlier this month after sealing them shut in March 2020. Morocco also closed its borders for many months after the initial outbreak in 2020. While Israel is letting its citizens fly home, Morocco is locking its citizens out for the next fortnight.

Emirates has deferred its historic Dubai – Tel Aviv flights because of the border closure. Photo: Emirates

Flights continue as deadlines loom

At Morocco’s busiest airport, Casablanca’s Mohammed V International, a steady clip of flights continue to arrive and depart before Monday’s deadline. The bulk of flights operated in and out of the airport are Royal Air Maroc services. But Air France, Iberia, Air Arabia Maroc, Air Senegal, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Mauritania Airlines International, and Pegasus Airlines are among the other carriers with scheduled flights in and out of the airport.

At Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International, flights also continue. Some 75 airlines serve the airport (albeit many dedicated freight airlines are in that mix). Ben Gurion gets a more diverse mix of airlines than Casablanca, and local flag carrier El Al commands far fewer slots at the airport.

While flights to Morocco will cease later on Monday, flights in and out of Tel Aviv could continue relatively unimpacted on the back of Israelis still able to enter and leave the country.

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