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Israeli flight attendant in Chinese quarantine facility after catching Omicron

El Al employee tested negative twice before takeoff from Israel but then positive in Guangzhou on Thursday; Foreign Ministry aims to have her returned as early as Monday

Illustrative: An El Al airline plane at Ben Gurion International Airport on August 17, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Illustrative: An El Al airline plane at Ben Gurion International Airport on August 17, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A flight attendant for Israel’s El Al national airline tested positive for the Omicron variant of the coronavirus after landing in China, and has been quarantined at a local facility since Thursday, Hebrew media reported Sunday evening.

The woman tested negative twice for COVID-19 before departing on a cargo flight to Guangzhou, but tested positive for the new 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 has been in contact with the Israeli consulate, according to the reports.

The reports said China isn’t placing blame on Israel for the incident, adding that the Foreign Minister is aware of the situation and making efforts to have the flight attendant returned to Israel as soon as Monday.

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

Omicron has not been reported in Xi’an and only dozens of the less infectious Delta strain have been detected in the city in recent days. But the Chinese government, which has throughout the pandemic pursued a zero-case strategy, reacted with typical forcefulness and ordered all residents to stay indoors.

Only one person per household can leave home every two days to buy necessities, while non-essential businesses are closed.

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