Ministers Huddle to Stop Crowding at Ben Gurion

YERUSHALAYIM -
The entrance to Terminal 1 at Ben Gurion Airport. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

An inter-ministerial team has been designated to oversee compliance with coronavirus regulations at Ben Gurion Airport, where crowding led to blatant violations last week, The Times of Israel reported on Sunday.

Transportation Minister Miri Regev and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said the group will be headed by the director-general of the Transportation Ministry, Ofer Malka, and the deputy director-general of the Health Ministry, Itamar Grotto.

They are charged with recommending immediate measures to enforce masks and social distancing at check-in counters or in line for passport control, where hundreds of passengers arriving from abroad were seen standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a photo taken by a reported that he then posted on Twitter.

The Israel Airport Authority said in a statement Sunday that it was “working to ensure the flow of passengers in a safe way with the aim of not creating unusual loads.”

The authority said it is permitted to have passengers from up to eight flights every three hours in the terminal, “and we ask the passengers to keep to social distancing and to wear masks.”

Normalization of ties with the UAE now poses a threat to Israel’s sagging efforts to prevent a third lockdown. A senior Health Ministry official warned Sunday that travel to the United Arab Emirates could be a coronavirus “ticking time bomb.”

This was due to Israel’s decision to keep the UAE on its list of “green” countries with low infection rates, reportedly to avoid a diplomatic rift just months after establishing formal ties, even though morbidity has been rising in the Gulf country.

“Dubai is our new Turkey,” the unnamed official was quoted as saying by Ynet, referring to the large number of Israelis who returned from Turkey while carrying the virus, contributing to its spread in the country.

The Health Ministry expects that 224 COVID-19 patients will return from the UAE to Israel in December, Ynet reported, more than any other country (next are Turkey with an estimated 86 and the United States with 66).

Some 10,000 Israelis are currently in Dubai, the report said.