Israel to Send Returnees From U.K. to Coronavirus Hotels

YERUSHALAYIM -
The empty incoming flights hall at the Ben Gurion International Airport. (Flash90)

Following the emergence of a new variant of the coronavirus, the Defense Ministry and the Home Front Command said Sunday that they are preparing to operate hotels to isolate returnees from the United Kingdom and other countries where the new mutation of the coronavirus, which is considered particularly contagious, has been discovered.

“Against the background of the development of the mutation of the coronavirus in several countries until full information and policy formulation is received, Defense Minister Benny Gantz instructed the Assistant Defense Minister in the Ministry of Defense and the IDF through the Home Front Command to prepare the Corona hotels to receive returnees from these countries within 24 hours from the decision in the Corona Cabinet,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Passengers who arrived on EasyJet and British Airways flights on Sunday, were detained on board pending medical teams conducting coronavirus tests.

In addition, the Coronavirus Cabinet recommends that people coming into the country from Australia and New Zealand stay in quarantine in a coronavirus hotel upon their return.

“We are already working to stop flights to Israel from countries to which the British coronavirus mutation has arrived,” Head of Public Health Services Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis told 103FM on Sunday morning, citing South Africa, England and Australia as examples.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and scientists announced on Saturday that the new strain of coronavirus identified in the country is up to 70% more infectious.

Johnson also said London and southeast England, which are currently in the highest level of a three-tier system of rules, would now be placed in a new Tier 4 level.

While the strain is definitely more infectious, scientists say it is not known to be more lethal or resistant to vaccines.

“This mutation causes a faster infection, and there is no evidence that it is resistant to the vaccine that was developed,” Health Ministry Director General Chezy Levy told Kan Reshet Bet Radio on Sunday morning.

“We are following with concern,” Coronavirus Commissioner Nachman Ash told Walla News on Sunday morning. “At the moment we think the vaccine will work on the new mutation as well.”

Though the Health Ministry confirmed Motzoei Shabbos that all countries will be designated as red destinations to combat the recent spike in coronavirus morbidity rates, visitors from other previously-green countries have been given until December 26 to return to Israel without any isolation required.