Incoming Passengers Bused to Quarantine from Ben Gurion as Coronavirus Mutates

YERUSHALAYIM -
A technician collects nasal swab samples for COVID-19 at the new coronavirus lab, at Ben-Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv . (Flash90/File)

Dozens of passengers arriving at Ben Gurion airport were confronted on Sunday with the sudden decision by the Israeli government to require that those arriving from abroad go into quarantine at state-run facilities.

Those who agreed were put on buses and taken to the Dan Panorama Hotel, escorted by a convoy of police vehicles. Some of the passengers elected to return to the U.K.

Passengers protested that they had been given no notification of the new policy beforehand. Apparently, the coronavirus cabinet had come to its decision a short time before the plane landed, an EasyJet flight from the U.K.

On Sunday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ stated the quarantine measure had been necessitated by the emergence of a new strain of coronavirus which appeared to be coming out of Britain, and was described as being “out of control.”

Because of this, he said, Israel “made the tough but necessary decision today to close all air travel from Britain, Denmark and South Africa to Israel. Those are the countries where the mutation has been detected.”

One couple with two children told the Kan public broadcaster that it was like a “kidnapping.”

“We weren’t given any advance information that we need to enter forced quarantine. This a scandal for the State of Israel… this is chutzpah,” another unnamed passenger said.

“At Luton [airport], check-in was normal, but then they called boarding 1.5 hours early. At the gate, they turned everyone away [all non-Israelis] who had a British passport with permission to enter. They then took Israelis aside and explained that the chances were that by the time we were back we’d have to go to a corona hotel but it wasn’t 100% yet. Quite a lot of people didn’t get on the flight and we had to wait for luggage to come off,” Ellen Steel, a British-Israeli citizen, told The Times of Israel, from a bus on the way to the hotel.

She added: “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.”

According to Steel, the passengers had their passports taken from them as they got off the plane, but were not told why. She said they got them back a half hour later, after they were put through passport control.

“We got bused to Terminal 1, where there was press waiting. They gave us water and our baggage came. Then they told us to get on buses but didn’t say where to. So people packed onto these buses, but there was zero distancing, etc. So I refused and am now on one [bus] with, like, 10 people on the way to the Dan Panorama Jerusalem. The buses have police cars escorting them, front, back etc.,” Steel said.

Some of the passengers who refused to board buses to the corona hotel tried to arrange a flight back to London, but the pilot of the EasyJet plane they arrived on refused, because they had not been denied entry to the country, according to Ynet.

Several of the passengers bought tickets for a return flight, while 15 passengers on a British Airways plane refused to disembark and will fly back to the UK, the news site said.