Health risk: Airline passengers entering Israel not getting Covid test results

The subsequent serology test does not show if people are ill with COVID-19, only if they have antibodies. Meanwhile, morbidity is rising.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Many incoming airline passengers are not getting back the results of the tests that show if they are infected with COVID-19 in a timely fashion, if at all, which could pose a major health risk to the country.

Health officials believe that a major cause of the rising morbidity rates in the country is that people arriving from abroad have not isolated themselves upon entry. This may be at least partially due to the fact that, according to recent reports, hundreds of travelers are not being informed of the results of the PCR tests they were required to undergo at Ben Gurion Airport upon landing.

They are supposed to get answers within 24 hours, but many have reported waiting 10 days or more – or not getting them at all.

Travelers are also mandated to do a follow-up serology test, which most rush to do within a day or two. These results usually come quickly, and if the antibodies are present, they are officially released from quarantine despite not having the results of the PCR test that would show whether they are ill or not.

Israeli citizens are seemingly less of a problem, as they are supposed to be informed by their health funds if a viral load has been detected.

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Stories abound on Facebook of passengers trying unsuccessfully for days to access their results. For example, they are supposed to get a code by email to the proper area in the website that the Health Ministry runs together with the Femi Premium company, which performs the airport tests. Some don’t get the code – or it doesn’t work. When they call either the ministry or Femi, they get no response or are told a representative will get back to them, but there is no follow-up.

As one frustrated relative of a passenger told Globes in a Monday report, “Beyond the fact that they have seemingly paid for a test for nothing, doesn’t anyone care what the results are of all these people that have landed in Israel?”

Another apparent failure in planning, which is finally being addressed, is that ever since the airport reopened, there has been no separation between travelers arriving from high-risk countries and those coming from safer places. They were all lining up together to wait for a swab to be performed. Although the number of testing stations was recently expanded from 30 to 70, many flights land in close proximity, meaning that hundreds of people ended up breathing each other’s air while awaiting their turn.

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On Tuesday, the Transportation Ministry announced that passengers from “red” countries will now be separated and shuttled to Terminal 1, which mainly services local flights, instead of going through International Arrivals at Terminal 3.

The Health and Defense Ministries announced last week that another center will soon be established at the airport in order to test hundreds of people at once. It is to be hoped that the process of receiving the results of those tests will be speeded up at the same time.