After nixing plan, Netanyahu now says all arrivals must quarantine in hotels

PM reverses decision to shelve Defense Ministry plan following criticism; says arrivals to be tested upon landing if Israel has enough kits to spare

Passengers wearing masks to help protect against coronavirus arrive at the Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv on March 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Passengers wearing masks to help protect against coronavirus arrive at the Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv on March 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday reinstated a plan to require all arrivals from abroad to be quarantined in a hotel or other designated facility for 14 days over concerns they may have the coronavirus, a day after it was revealed that he had nixed a similar plan.

Unlike the previous plan, all arrivals will seemingly now be required to quarantine under supervision and not just those coming from outbreak epicenters in Italy, Spain, France and the United States.

The new policy was effective immediately, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Netanyahu’s office also said arrivals will be tested for the virus, should the Defense Ministry manage to acquire enough tests, and that he had instructed the Finance Ministry to set aside funds to that end.

The reversal came after hundreds of people on Tuesday entered Israel from areas without being tested for the virus upon arrival and without being sent for 14 days to quarantine hotels set up for that purpose.

The Dan Hotel in Jerusalem that was converted to receive coronavirus patients, March 17, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Speaking with Channel 12 news Tuesday, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett acknowledged that despite an announcement by his office last week that all arrivals from the US, Italy, Spain and France would face the measures, the plan had been shelved.

Passengers arriving on a flight from New York on Tuesday, for example, were allowed to “simply walk out of the doors” of Ben Gurion Airport, the report said. Hundreds more have said they came to Israel in recent days and faced no restrictions, it said. “Nobody checks that they are going into quarantine. Nobody tests them for the coronavirus.”

The report added that in a meeting hosted by Netanyahu last week, it was decided to trash Bennett’s plan and to have Israelis and foreign nationals based in Israel isolate themselves at home instead and not have to be tested for the virus. (Non-Israelis who are not based in Israel are not allowed into the country under coronavirus restrictions.)

Former health ministry director-general Gabi Barabash told the network that due to this “idiotic management,” Israel was in danger of “simply becoming a branch of New York” — the US state where over 1,700 people have died and more than 76,000 were infected.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (L) speaks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting with leaders of right-wing parties at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Asked about the subject during an interview, Bennett told Channel 12 that Netanyahu and National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat had decided to go in a different direction to the one he had advocated.

Bennett’s office had announced the program last week as a done deal, not a proposal, said it would be implemented starting Saturday, and never said it had been shelved.

Israel has been implementing increasingly stringent measures to thwart the spread of the virus, with citizens generally required to stay home.

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