Commercial flights will not resume to Israel until at least mid-July

El Al Israel Airlines departure counter is pictured empty after it cancelled flights to Italy at Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, on February 27, 2020. - Israel has recorded three confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus, including two from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and an Israeli who had been in northern Italy. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP) (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

By Marcy Oster, JERUSALEM (JTA) — Commercial flights will not resume to Israel until mid-July at the earliest, according to the head of Ben Gurion Airport.

Shmuel Zakaim, the airport’s managing director, told the Israeli news website Ynet that even when the flights eventually restart, the number of departing planes will remain low for now.

“Social distancing regulations at airports won’t allow us to increase passenger capacity,” Zakai said. “If we’ll keep up at this pace, we’ll see a few dozen flights departing from Ben Gurion Airport starting mid-July and not earlier. As long as there is no vaccine for coronavirus and the disease keeps moving across countries there will be no significant change.”

The new regulations will require travelers to arrive four hours early for a flight, at which time they will receive a temperature check, wear face masks and remain social distanced in waiting areas. They will not be allowed to have any non-travelers accompany them.

The Jerusalem Post confirmed that senior Health Ministry officials visited the airport last week to review plans for reopening some commercial travel, though no concrete plans or dates were set.

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