Why are Israel's skies still closed?

Other countries have reopened their airports with 2-step testing, but the Health Ministry refuses to back such a step in Israel.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Ben Gurion International airport empty
Ben Gurion International airport empty
Avi Dishi/Flash90

Tens of thousands of Israelis are eager to travel abroad, the tourism industry is desperate for revenue, but the Health Ministry's opposition to the outline for coronavirus testing at airports is keeping Israel's skies closed.

Many countries in the Western world have opened their borders while creating an effective testing system at their airports. However, Israel is being left behind due to opposition from the Health Ministry.

About two months ago, two senior officials from the Health Ministry, Prof. Siegal Sadetzki and Prof. Itamar Grotto, arrived at Ben Gurion Airport to examine the conduct of the main international gateway to the State of Israel. The two examined the possibility of setting up a testing laboratory at the airport, but the ministry rejected the possibility for two reasons: a shortage of tests throughout the country at the time, and the fear that the tests would be carried out by workers at private laboratories, raising the cost significantly.

Meanwhile, Iceland, Dubai and other advanced countries have adopted a two-stage testing model that allows airports to open under certain restrictions.

How does the model work? A passenger is tested for the coronavirus in the country of origin 72 hours before departure. If the test comes back negative, the passenger is allowed to fly and is checked again upon landing in the destination country. The passenger is then sent to a hotel to wait for several hours until they receive the results of the test on their cell phone. If they test negative again then they will be allowed to tour the country.

Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett strongly criticized the Health Ministry's refusal to allow Ben Gurion Airport to reopen. "The closure of Israel's skies causes a terrible livelihood problem that affects hundreds of thousands of Israelis in some very wide circles. Israel is an island, it has no land connection to any country in the world, so we depend on flights. We cannot afford to close the airports for so long."

Bennett said that in recent weeks he has consulted with experts in Israel and around the world and formulated with them an outline for the restoration of flights to and from Israel. According to the outline, passengers will take two tests, one 72 hours before their flight and one at the airport. If both tests come back negative they will be allowed to fly.

According to data from the Health Ministry, in the last two weeks, 13,000 passengers - all immigrants or Israeli citizens - entered Israel - and only four of them were coronavirus patients