According to Israeli airline El Al, it will be testing passengers on a flight from New York to Tel Aviv for the coronavirus before boarding on Thursday. The test will be conducted on the plane itself in order to speed up the process upon their arrival in Israel, where the number of infections are on the rise once more. The plan was announced by the airline after the notice of the Israeli government that passengers from the United States would also have to self-isolate for a week, like those from other countries, upon their arrival at the Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv.
The new restriction was introduced in the hopes that it will slow the spread of the coronavirus and also discourage Israelis from traveling abroad and risking greater exposure to the Delta variant of COVID-19, which is currently fueling infections throughout the world. Foreign tourism to the country is already banned for the most part. The airline disclosed that the PCR tests that will be conducted on the El Al passengers are in coordination with the Health Ministry in Israel and the Xpres Check and Femi companies, which also have testing labs at the Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv and the John F. Kennedy airport in New York.
The tests of the flight will be administered by representatives of the companies instead of the flight crew. It was also noted by El Al that the tests are part of a pilot programme and passengers from the United States and other countries would still be required to get themselves tested 72 hours before a flight. A PCR test also has to be taken by passengers arriving at the Ben-Gurion airport before they leave the terminal. This is the step that passengers boarding the El Al flight on Thursday will be able to skip, as they will be tested in-flight.
Israel had decided to close its borders to tourists at the pandemic’s outset and only a small number of foreigners have been permitted to come in recent months. Israeli airlines, including El Al, which underwent a change in management and ownership last year, were dealt a hard blow in 2020. They had to shut off most routes and local tourism also suffered. Travel to and from a total of 14 countries is banned in Israel, including Britain, India, Mexico, Spain and Russia. Avigal Sorek, the chief executive of El Al, stated that it was apparent that the virus is here to stay, one way or the other.
He added that people have to figure out how to live alongside the virus because it is not possible to put lives on hold due to the disease. He said that El Al would come up with creative solutions for opening up Israel in the future to foreign tourism. The CEO said that they wanted the decision makers in the country to assess these measures and to come up with similar solutions in order to maintain a routine.