A ‘Yom Kippur’ type of feel at Ben Gurion airport amid coronavirus threat

Just 20 percent of airport employees will be allowed to come into work until further notice.

By Aaron Sull, World Israel News

Yom Kippur is essentially the only day of the year that puts a total stop to business at Israel’s largest airport.

This may no longer be the case following strict new governmental procedures that include a mandatory two-week quarantine for everybody entering the country, including all foreigners, in an effort to curb the coronavirus threat.

“People who return to Israel from anywhere in the world must be placed under home isolation for 14 days counting from their date of return,” the Ministry of Health said on its website.

The Israel Airports Authority decided to shut down parts of the main international terminal at Ben Gurion Airport and reduce manpower significantly following the steady flow of canceled flights, the Times of Israel reported.

Two out of five check-in areas in the terminal will be closed immediately and just 30 percent of airport employees will be allowed to come into work until further notice, the report said.

Pinchas Idan, head of the airport’s workers union, told Channel 12 News “There’s never been anything like this.”

“Before Passover, there will be wide layoffs at the airport. We’re waiting for a miracle,” he said.

“I have no words. I’ve worked for the authority for over 40 years, many of them as head of the union,” Idan said. “We’ve never experienced anything like this, not during the Gulf War [of 1991] and not during the first and second intifadas.”

Following the government decision Monday ordering the two-week quarantine of all arriving passengers no matter what their nationality, a slew of airlines temporarily canceled services to and from the Jewish State, including Delta Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Lufthansa. Israel’s smaller charter airlines, Arkia and Israir, suspended operations except for internal flights.

The extraordinary order to quarantine everybody flying into Israel requires all non-Israelis to prove they have a place to stay while quarantined, or face being barred from entering the country.

As of Wednesday, 76 people are confirmed to have been infected with the deadly disease and tens of thousands of suspected cases are in self-quarantine. Of the 76 victims,  one is in severe condition, six are in moderate condition, and the rest are being treated as light cases.