Stress and chaos as Israelis arriving from UK forced to quarantine

Israel also blocks foreign nationals over new Covid-19 strain


Israelis returning from the UK were forced to quarantine on Sunday as the country imposed new travel restrictions to halt the spread of the mutant coronavirus variant.

A British Israeli who flew with Virgin Atlantic and landed at Ben Gurion Airport in the early hours of Monday said she was escorted to a state-sponsored quarantine hotel upon arrival. 

“The first bus [to the quarantine hotel] got pretty full so I waited for the second bus. 

“The whole way to the hotel there was a police car in front and behind of the buses,” she told the JC.

The 26-year-old, who did not wish to be named, said she was notified several hours before her flight of the new quarantine requirement but was worried about being stuck in the UK. 

The dual citizen, who lives and works in Israel, said she had not been informed when she would be tested for Covid-19. 

“I wanted to get out in 10 days so at least I could spend New Year’s Eve with my brother but if I don’t get a corona test today or tomorrow I’m going to be stuck here until the 3rd of January.”

She described the experience as “stressful”, “incredibly unorganised” and mired in uncertainty. “You don’t know what’s happening. No one can give you a clear answer.”

Israel’s coronavirus cabinet agreed to ban entry to foreign nationals and impose a 14-day quarantine for residents returning from Britain, Denmark and South Africa, the PM’s office said Sunday.

Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday all foreign nationals, except for diplomats, would be denied entry into the country. He said new restrictions would be valid for 10 days with the possibility of being extended.

Under previous restrictions, foreign nationals could be granted entry to attend some life-cycle events with close relatives.

Israel was not alone as countries across the world cut off the UK in an effort to stop the spread of the mutant strain, which scientists fear could be 70 per cent more transmissible.

Around 130 travellers from the UK were taken to quarantine at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Jerusalem after landing at Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday, according to local media.

Ellen Steel, a British-Israeli citizen escorted to the hotel, told the Times of Israel that foreign nationals had been turned away at Luton Airport.

“When we landed someone from the health ministry came on [the plane] and announced we’d all have to go to hotels — if we wanted to have a fight about it we could but only at the hotel and not before,” she said. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who received a Pfizer- BioNTech vaccine jab last week, told a cabinet meeting it was “clear to us that we are at the start of a very rapid spread.

“The viral mass entering Israel must be reduced as much as possible even as in England they are currently checking what exactly this virus is, whether it is resistant to the vaccine and additional questions.

“In order to do this, I ask that we duplicate what we did during the first wave of the coronavirus: To close the skies as quickly as possible,” he said.

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