Chaos reported at airport, with few sent to quarantine hotels despite new rules

Though cabinet ordered all arrivals isolated at gov’t facilities, barely 1 in 10 said to actually go; passengers report pandemonium upon landing: ‘Nothing prepared in advance’

File: Parked airplanes at Ben Gurion Airport, August 8, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)
File: Parked airplanes at Ben Gurion Airport, August 8, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)

Despite a government decision to compel all Israelis entering the country from Wednesday night to quarantine in state-run hotels, only about 12 percent of arrivals have in practice been forced to do so up until now, Army Radio reported Friday.

According to the station, out of some 4,000 arrivals at Ben Gurion Airport since the new regulations came into effect, only around 500 have been sent to hotels, while others have been told to self-isolate at home.

The new policy was intended to better control quarantines, amid fears many are failing to properly adhere to the practice, thus contributing to rising morbidity throughout the country, and as concern grows over a new, more contagious strain that has originated in the UK and is believed to already be spreading in the Israeli population.

The radio report did not provide any further details on why the new policy was not being carried out as mandated by the government.

It would not be the first time that cabinet decisions on restrictions for arriving travelers are not carried out at the airport. During the first wave of the pandemic in April, there were numerous reports of passengers being allowed to travel home independently, despite standing orders to deliver all arrivals to quarantine hotels.

Passengers at the Ben Gurion Airport departure hall on December 14, 2020 (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

On Thursday Channel 12 reported chaotic scenes at Ben Gurion, with passengers kept waiting for long periods at the baggage claim, and no one providing answers on how their transfer to hotels was supposed to work.

“Nothing had been prepared in advance,” one passenger returning from Dubai said. “There’s an improvised line packed with dozens of people… we’ve been sent from here to there, there’s only one representative who won’t let anyone near her, no one’s supervising, there’s no order. It’s indescribable.”

Earlier this month, intense crowding was reported at the airport’s passport control, with travelers utterly failing to maintain social distancing due to insufficient manpower at customs.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri later sent Shlomo Mor-Yosef, Director-General of the Population and Immigration Authority, to the airport to check what was going on “and shake up his people.”

Israel on Sunday will enter its third national lockdown, which officials hope will be the pandemic’s last as the country steps up its vaccination drive.

The new lockdown will begin Sunday at 5 p.m. and last for at least two weeks. The restrictions will be extended for an additional two weeks if morbidity rates do not decrease significantly. The moves were approved by the cabinet overnight.

The rules will bar Israelis from entering another person’s home, except for immediate family members; restrict movement to 1 kilometer from home, with exceptions, such as for vaccinations; shut down commerce, leisure and entertainment; limit public transportation to 50% capacity; and limit workplaces that do not deal with customers face-to-face to 50% capacity.

Restaurants will be allowed to do deliveries, but takeout orders will be banned. Gatherings will be restricted to 20 people outdoors and 10 indoors, and individual sports activities, such as jogging, will be allowed.

The terms are similar to the last lockdown, in September.

In contrast to previous lockdowns, however, the education system will continue to function. Kindergarten, grades 1-4, and grades 11-12 will hold classes as usual while grades 5-10 will study remotely.

read more: