23 people caught trying to fly from Israel to New York with forged COVID tests

United Airlines passengers removed from flight and detained, then released on bail and fined, with possibility of further punishment under consideration; US authorities informed

Illustrative -- Police officers enforce COVID-19 regulations at Ben Gurion International Airport, on July 19, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Illustrative -- Police officers enforce COVID-19 regulations at Ben Gurion International Airport, on July 19, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Twenty-three people were caught trying to fly to New York with forged coronavirus test results, the Health Ministry and Israel Police said Thursday.

According to the statement, United Airlines conveyed its suspicions that the paperwork was falsified to the Health Ministry and police.

When this was confirmed, the passengers were removed from the airplane and taken for interrogation by police. The passengers were released on bail and fined, with the possibility of further punishment under consideration.

Their details were additionally given to US authorities, the statement said.

The statement did not say if the 23 passengers had falsified their test results because they had previously tested positive.

Travelers to most destinations on most airlines have to present a copy of a recent negative coronavirus test in order to fly. The test results are generally printed out or displayed on a phone to airport workers in a system vulnerable to manipulation.

Illustrative — Travelers at Ben Gurion International Airport on August 05, 2021 (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)

The statement said that some 15 people are discovered every day at the airport attempting to travel with falsified paperwork for tests, with some of them found additionally to be breaking quarantine.

The Health Ministry along with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has called on Israelis to cease traveling abroad in order to prevent the import of new coronavirus variants upon their return, and travelers to all but 10 countries will have to quarantine on their return to Israel starting August 16.

Meanwhile, Israel Police Chief Superintendent Guy Levy said Thursday that officers paid visits to the homes of 9,000 individuals in quarantine in the previous 48 hours, and found 15-20% of them were not home. According to Health Ministry figures, some 120,000 people in Israel are currently in home isolation.

“We try to be in the places where we are needed the most,” Levy told the Kan public broadcaster. “I would be very happy if we had 2,000 more police officers to enforce the guidelines, but it is important to remember that the police do not only deal with the pandemic — there is other work to be done.”

Israel is facing a surging virus outbreak despite a strong vaccination campaign that is now offering boosters to all those aged 60 and over, with the minimum age expected to be lowered next week.

Israel recorded 5,946 new cases on Wednesday, continuing the trend of around 6,000 daily cases over the past three days — numbers not seen since February, during the country’s most serious outbreak — the Health Ministry said.

There were 421 patients in serious condition as of Thursday morning, out of 748 people hospitalized in coronavirus units. The death toll since the start of the pandemic rose to 6,593, three more than a day earlier.

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