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El Al attendant to return from China after quarantine for Omicron – reports

Woman said cleared to fly back to Israel after two-week isolation following efforts by Foreign Ministry and airline, as Beijing aims to zero cases ahead of Olympics

Illustrative: An El Al flight takes off at the Ben Gurion International Airport, outside of Tel Aviv, on October 25, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Illustrative: An El Al flight takes off at the Ben Gurion International Airport, outside of Tel Aviv, on October 25, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

An El Al flight attendant who had previously tested positive for the Omicron coronavirus variant after landing in China will be released back to Israel on Thursday, according to Hebrew media reports.

The woman spent two weeks in isolation, and will return after being cleared by the embassy in Beijing and the consulate in Guangzhou, following diplomatic efforts by the Foreign Ministry and El Al, the reports said.

The woman had reportedly tested negative twice for COVID-19 before departing on a cargo flight to Guangzhou, but tested positive for the Omicron strain after landing.

In accordance with China’s policy of aiming for zero cases, the flight attendant was promptly taken to a hospital quarantine facility and was in contact with the Israeli consulate, reports said.

Reports at the time said China did not place blame on Israel for the incident, and efforts were made to return the flight attendant to Israel as quickly as possible.

China has been clamping down hard on the coronavirus in an attempt to keep the country COVID-free ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, which begin February 4 and run until February 20.

In December, China locked down the northern city of Xi’an — with a population of 13 million — recalling the sequestering of the central city of Wuhan in January 2020 when the virus first emerged.

Before the lockdown, Omicron had not been reported in Xi’an and only a few dozen cases of the Delta variant had been detected in the city in the leadup. But the Chinese government reacted with forcefulness and ordered all residents to stay indoors. Only one person per household was allowed to leave home every two days to buy necessities, while non-essential businesses were closed.

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