Israel bans non-citizens, sends Israelis to quarantine hotels in bid to block mutated virus

Starting Wednesday, Israelis returning from abroad must stay at a state-run quarantine hotel for 14 days.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel on Monday decided to ban the entry of all non-citizens into the country for the next 10 days in a bid to keep a new mutated version of the coronavirus from reaching the country. It also decided to send citizens to coronavirus hotels to quarantine.

“We have, at the moment, a new pandemic that is spreading, with a virus which we do not yet know about. This mutation could also be coronavirus 2,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

“Therefore, I decided last night – and we implemented today – to close the skies of the State of Israel. Foreign nationals will not enter the country, other than exceptions such as diplomats. Israelis, who return from abroad, starting in another 48 hours, will be quarantined at designated hotels. If they return in the next 48 hours, they will be able to quarantine at home,” Netanyahu added.

“I know that this is a difficult decision but we have no choice. I understand the difficulty that is also being caused to families, travelers, to everybody. Nevertheless, this decision is critical because we must safeguard your health and your lives. This decision is valid, as of now, for 10 days with the possibility of being extended,” the prime minister said after the cabinet decision.

Israelis returning from abroad beginning on Wednesday will be taken directly from the airport to a state-run quarantine hotel for 14 days, a decision apparently made after health officials discovered that many returning passengers were simply not self-quarantining on their return to the country and had been spreading the virus.

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Under the rules, those in hotel quarantine could be released early after 10 days if they test negative twice for the virus with at least 24 hours between the first test result and the second test.

With Israel’s travel industry paralyzed by the pandemic, the government decided during the first wave of infections earlier this year to rent empty hotels and use them as quarantine centers. The move provided an economic lifeline to some hotels while allowing those infected to recover from the disease without infecting others in their household.

However, the head of the IDF Homefront Command, Major General Uri Gordin, said that when he heard the proposal to confine all returnees from abroad in the hotels, he felt compelled to announce that one person had committed suicide in a hotel Monday morning, the news website Kikar Shabbat reported.

The dead person appeared to be a traveler who came from Russia and was sent to solitary confinement in a hotel, the report said.