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World

Israel opens rapid virus testing at airport

  • The number of Covid-19 cases has since fallen below 1,000 a day, according to official data.
09 Nov 2020

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurated a rapid coronavirus testing centre at Israel's main international airport on Monday, meant to ease travel in and out of the country.

The testing and a lab situated in Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport is available to arriving and departing travellers, he said.

"This can help us return faster, better and more efficiently to normal air travel," he said.

"We want to make it possible to reunite Israel with the world."

The new set-up allows travellers to give a sample at the terminal and have it analysed at an on-site lab, with the result ready in 5 1/2 to six hours as the traveller waits.

The cost of the express test is 135 shekels($40).

A slower track, with results in 14 hours, is just 45 shekels, said Transport Minister Miri Regev at the opening ceremony.

A clean bill of health would be certified in a "medical passport" allowing quarantine-free admission to some countries, she said, naming the Seychelles and Dubai as examples.

Invited to give a specimen at the opening by a gloved swab-taker working behind a protective window, Netanyahu declined.

"I gave at the office," he said in English.

In March when Israel went into its first coronavirus lockdown, Netanyahu took a precautionary test after a staffer tested positive for the virus.

Netanyahu had a negative result but went into precautionary self-quarantine.

After a peak of more than 10,000 cases per day in September -- then the highest infection rate per capita in the world -- Israel went into its second lockdown.

The number of Covid-19 cases has since fallen below 1,000 a day, according to official data, and restrictions are being gradually eased in accordance with infection data.

Israel, a country of about nine million people, has recorded 319,500 coronavirus cases, including over 2,600 deaths, according to official figures published on Monday.