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Israel opens virus testing center at Ben Gurion Airport

Travelers can now give samples on-site, with option for express or slower testing; Netanyahu inaugurates lab but declines test: ‘I gave at the office’

Mask-clad Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with a coronavirus swab sampling booth technician during the inauguration of a COVID-19 coronavirus rapid testing center at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod on November 9, 2020. (ATEF SAFADI / POOL / AFP)
Mask-clad Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with a coronavirus swab sampling booth technician during the inauguration of a COVID-19 coronavirus rapid testing center at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod on November 9, 2020. (ATEF SAFADI / POOL / AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurated a rapid coronavirus testing center at Israel’s main international airport on Monday, meant to ease travel in and out of the country.

The testing and a lab situated in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport is available to arriving and departing travelers, he said.

“This can help us return faster, better and more efficiently to normal air travel,” he said. “We want to make it possible to reunite Israel with the world.”

The new setup allows travelers to give a sample at the terminal and have it analyzed at an on-site lab, with the result ready in 5½ to six hours as the traveler waits.

The cost of the express test is NIS 135 ($40).

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends while mask-clad the inauguration of a COVID-19 coronavirus rapid testing center at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod on November 9, 2020. (ATEF SAFADI / POOL / AFP)

A slower track, with results in 14 hours, is NIS 45 ($13), said Transportation Minister Miri Regev at the opening ceremony.

A clean bill of health would be certified in a “medical passport” allowing quarantine-free admission to some countries, she said, naming the Seychelles and Dubai as examples.

Previously, travelers were required to get privately tested days before their flight and show a negative result to gain entry into certain countries. The airport, however, had no such testing on offer.

Invited to give a specimen at the opening by a gloved swab-taker working behind a protective window, Netanyahu declined.

“I gave at the office,” he said in English.

Mask-clad Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is shown a demonstration of a coronavirus swab sampling at a booth during the inauguration of a COVID-19 coronavirus rapid testing center at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod on November 9, 2020. (ATEF SAFADI / POOL / AFP)

In March when Israel went into its first coronavirus lockdown, Netanyahu took a precautionary test after a staffer tested positive for the virus.

Netanyahu had a negative result but went into precautionary self-quarantine.

After a peak of more than 10,000 cases per day in September — then the highest infection rate per capita in the world — Israel went into its second lockdown.

The number of COVID-19 cases has since fallen below 1,000 a day, according to official data, and restrictions are being gradually eased in accordance with infection data.

Israel, a country of about nine million people, has recorded 319,500 coronavirus cases, including over 2,600 deaths, according to official figures published on Monday.

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