Quarantine lapse at Ben Gurion Airport sends 100s into Israel without supervision

Netanyahu orders tighter oversight as hundreds of landing passengers leave after mere promise that they will self-isolate at home.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman Tov on Tuesday to tighten oversight at Ben-Gurion International Airport after an expose by Israel’s Channel 12 News revealed that hundreds of passengers were allowed to go home without being screened for the virus.

One passenger told the channel that there were health ministry officials standing at passport control, but they just asked people to sign a declaration that they would immediately go into self-isolation. Those who did not sign were not allowed to leave, she said, but nothing else was done.

“When leaving the airport, everyone went wherever they wanted, some caught cheap cabs,” she said. “They asked me where I was going and if I wanted an apartment where I could be in quarantine.”

She was also horrified at the laxity in following health guidelines on board her flight from New York.

“The staff said that everyone could sit where they wanted in tourist class. There were elderly people who were coughing, not everyone was wearing masks. The staff itself didn’t wear masks, which was strange. They had gloves, but no masks…. I didn’t understand how the staff weren’t afraid for their lives. Not just from the point of view of infecting the passengers – how could they not take care of themselves,” she said.

Testing passengers upon landing is not yet mandatory, even though Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced last week that every person flying in from high-risk locations such as the United States, Italy, Spain and France, would be screened for the virulent disease at the airport.

He also said that those who tested positive would be directed to stay in hotels that have been set aside as quarantine areas so that they could be monitored closely by medical staff. The rest would go home for a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period.

The plan hadn’t yet been approved, however, as Bennett explained Tuesday on the TV program “Six with Oded Ben Ami.”

“Originally, it was the decision of the National Security Council and the prime minister to test travelers upon landing,” he said. “But for a plethora of reasons, the decision changed to house quarantine. This is not a delusional decision, we’re examining what are our abilities with regard to testing.”

It is not yet clear what the tighter oversight at the airport will mean.