Photo Credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90
Israeli travelers who had been stranded in South America are welcomed at Ben Gurion airport, March 23, 2020.

In a telephone conference Sunday morning, the Netanyahu cabinet approved an amendment to the emergency regulations, saying that all Israelis returning from abroad must be sent on their arrival to isolation in state-run hotels. In exceptional cases, the Health Ministry’s Director General, in consultation with the Home Front Command, may authorize a returning Israeli to stay in isolation elsewhere under special circumstances.

On Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a ban on all flights to Israel, after a direct flight from New York—the world’s epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic—landed at Ben Gurion Airport on Saturday morning and its passengers were released without being tested at all.


The ban on landings remained in effect until a legal solution was found to allow the IDF Home Front Command to take the arriving passengers to quarantine hotels as soon as they get off the plane.

As part of the PM’s directive, planes that have already taken off for Israel were allowed to land, but beyond that, all flights to Israel were banned.

Dozens of passengers landed at Ben Gurion Airport Saturday morning on a flight from New York, and were then allowed to hail taxis or drive independently to their destination, all of that without any intervention of the health or law and order authorities. The passengers were allowed out of the airport without being tested for the coronavirus.

According to the Prime Minister’s instructions, travelers returning to Israel are required to stay in quarantine hotels and not return to their homes.

Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan addressed the incident, saying that “there is currently no legal obligation for those returning from abroad to stay at the hotel. They are permitted to stay in isolation in their home or in any home they choose. Police can only enforce a legal requirement.”

The Health Ministry issued a statement saying: “The Ministry’s recommendations are very clear on the issue and it is important to reduce the number of incoming flights as much as possible. The right thing to do is to reduce the number of arrivals as much as possible and send all the arriving individuals to a quarantine hotel.”

The ministry noted that “all those returning to Israel undergo a fever test and are questioned about their symptoms by MDA as soon as they land.”

According to the National Information Center on the War against the Coronavirus, about one-third of infections in Israel last month came from travelers who returned from abroad and landed in Ben Gurion Airport.

Last week saw a 460% jump in contagion originating in travelers returning from abroad.

Transport Minister Bezalel Smotrich explained that a joint consultation of the Interior and Transport Ministers with the Justice Ministry on the eve of Passover it was decided to approve all flights bringing Israeli citizens home. Some of those are rescue flights organized by the Foreign and Transport Ministries (from countries that no longer have regular flights), and some are regular commercial flights.

The Transport Minister declared: “The decision to approve the flights that return Israeli citizens home is mine and I stand behind it. Every Israeli citizen has a constitutional right to return to his country, and as much as it is up to me, the State of Israel will never close its doors to its citizens seeking to return home.”


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