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Israel officially scraps hotel quarantine requirement for returning travelers

Israelis may now self-isolate at home if tested for COVID-19 at airport; Health Ministry says 14 infected people were on flight from Dubai

Passengers who arrived on a flight from England arrive at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Jerusalem, used as a quarantine facility, on December 20, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Passengers who arrived on a flight from England arrive at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Jerusalem, used as a quarantine facility, on December 20, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee on Wednesday gave final approval to scrapping the requirement that all Israelis coming from abroad quarantine at state-run facilities.

Those arriving in Israel may now quarantine at home or elsewhere if they are tested for COVID-19 upon touching down at Ben Gurion Airport, a joint statement from the Health Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office said.

Anyone who quarantines at home will have to sign a document pledging to again be tested on the ninth day of their self-isolation and to not travel to the testing site by public transportation.

The statement also said the Defense Ministry and other authorized bodies would work to ensure the home quarantine requirements were being met.

A technician collects nasal swab samples for COVID-19 at the coronavirus lab, at Ben-Gurion International Airport on December 14, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Last week the government announced the controversial measure compelling travelers to quarantine at hotels following the spread of coronavirus variants in Britain and South Africa, which are believed to be more infectious, as well as an outbreak in Denmark linked to mink-farming.

The decision to repeal the requirement followed public criticism from a number of senior officials, and clashes between those who had been forced into the hotels and the authorities running them.

Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said those currently staying in the quarantine facilities would be allowed to complete their isolation at home after undergoing another virus test. He said that incoming travelers who refuse to be tested at the airport will continue to be compelled to isolate at the hotels.

A ban on all foreign nationals from entering the country will remain in place. Until last week, foreign travelers had been allowed entry into Israel to attend Health Ministry-approved lifecycle events for first-degree relatives, and for several other reasons.

An airplane of budget airline Flydubai lands at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on November 26, 2020, on the first scheduled commercial service between the two cities, following the normalization of ties between the UAE and Israel. (Jack Guez/AFP)

As the Knesset committee convened Wednesday, the acting head of the Health Ministry’s public health services division told lawmakers that a plane from Dubai with 14 confirmed COVID-19 cases onboard had landed in Israel.

“Right now we’re dealing with a coronavirus outbreak on a plane from Dubai,” Sharon Alroy-Preis said.

The Health Ministry said the plane carrying the passengers, who were together on an organized trip, landed in Israel on Monday. The ministry said it was carrying out contact tracing to determine whom the passengers were exposed to.

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis. (Courtesy)

According to Alroy-Preis, only 3 percent of those coming from abroad who have the coronavirus are detected as carriers upon their arrival in Israel.

“We want to stop the rising infections via imported morbidity. With the [current] situation in Israel, we don’t have the luxury of bringing morbidity from abroad,” she said.

She also warned about the spread of the virus within Israel as well as in “green” countries with low infection rates.

Earlier Wednesday, the Health Ministry said 5,583 new coronavirus cases were confirmed the day before, the highest number of new COVID-19 cases since early October, days after Israel entered a third national lockdown and as the country ramps up its vaccination campaign.

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