Police set up temporary roadblocks at the Gilo junction, outside Yerushalayim, as Israel enters its third nationwide lockdown, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, on Sunday. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
The Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, chaired by MK Rabbi Yaakov Asher (United Torah Judaism), approved on Wednesday the cancellation of the directive requiring all Israelis returning from abroad to be quarantined in state-run coronavirus hotels. The committee also extended by 60 days the national state of emergency declared due to the outbreak of the pandemic.
In a vote of 8-3, the committee ruled that anyone arriving from abroad will be permitted to quarantine at home, or at another location where they can self-isolate. Travelers will be required to take a coronavirus test immediately upon arrival back in Israel, and take another test nine days after their return. They will also be required to arrive at the testing site to take the second test by means other than public transportation. If Israelis do not have a suitable place to isolate, they can still quarantine at a hotel.
Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of Public Health Services in the Ministry of Health, told the committee that the Health Ministry was investigating an incident in which 14 people on the same airplane from Dubai to Israel tested positive for corona.
She noted that only 3% of those people who are infected with the virus test positive at the airport, hence the need to isolate and take a second test.
According to Dr. Alroy-Preis, between 60% and 70% of returnees failed to observe home quarantine, which is why the coronavirus cabinet put in place the order that all Israelis returning must quarantine in government-run hotels earlier this month.
The measure was also introduced due to fears over the spread of an especially infectious mutation of the coronavirus that has been especially prevalent in a number of countries, mainly the United Kingdom. Dr. Alroy-Preis said she expects that later this week Pfizer will provide answers as to the vaccine’s effectiveness against the mutation.
Dr. Alroy-Preis explained the need to extend the state of emergency by 60 days, after some committee members demanded a shortened extension in light of the vaccination drive. “So far we have vaccinated 30% of the at-risk population with the first dose, and we will not be able to vaccinate the at-risk population with the second dose within 60 days,” she explained.
“In addition, a third of the population in Israel will not be able to get vaccinated because they are children, and there will be people who will not want to get vaccinated, so in the next 60 days we will still be in a state of emergency during a global pandemic.”