Coronavirus: Travelers to pay to get tested for flying – Health Ministry, As first tourists land in Israel, rapid serological tests which are supposed to be offered at Ben-Gurion Airport are yet to be provided.
Travelers who wish to leave or enter Israel will now have to pay for their coronavirus PCR test, the Health Ministry said on Thursday, as a first group of tourists landed in the country for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.
In order to travel to Israel, authorities required that all passengers – including those who are vaccinated or recovered – present a negative test before boarding, and take another one upon arrival.
Since the airport reopened at the end of March, inbound travelers – citizens and non-citizens alike, in the rare instances where they were allowed in – were offered the test for free by Check2Fly managed by the Omega company in cooperation with Rambam Medical Center.
Regarding outbound passengers, those vaccinated and recovered are not required by Israel to undergo a test before leaving, but often, airlines or regulations at travelers’ destination do demand that a negative test is shown, so they have no choice and must test if they want to fly.
At the moment, Check2Fly offers the tests for some NIS135 to receive results within four hours and NIS 45 for results within 14 hours. However, nothing has prevented people from getting tested at their health fund for free.
But the Health Ministry has now announced that starting from June 1, everyone who arrives in Israel will have to pay for their own test, NIS 80 when booked in advance and NIS 100 without booking.
From June 10 the testing complex at Ben-Gurion Airport will be operated by the Femi Premium group and those who do not comply will face a NIS 3,500 fine.
In addition, people who leave Israel will also need to pay for their health fund tests. It was not immediately clear whether the Ben-Gurion testing station will continue to operate also for departing passengers.
The opportunity to undergo a rapid serological test, considered one of the pillars of the plan to reopen the country to foreign visitors, has yet to be offered., but this will soon change.
Currently, Israel requires everyone who is vaccinated abroad to undergo a serological test in order to prove the presence of antibodies and to be released from the mandatory quarantine.
To solve the problem for incoming tourists visiting for a short time, at the beginning of last month a government official said that a rapid saliva serological test which would provide results in about 15 minutes was being considered.
On May 19, the Health Ministry confirmed that such tests would be offered at Terminal 3.
However, the group that arrived on Thursday – about a dozen Christian pilgrims from the US – was instead brought to their hotel where they underwent a regular serological test whose results were set to arrive by Friday morning, allowing them to be free of their isolation, tour operator Adi Aharoni said.
He added that if a sufficient level of antibodies was not found, the visitors knew that they would have to remain in quarantine at their own expense.
Omega said it is also able to offer rapid serological tests and a company spokesperson said that they offered them for free to the first Birthright groups that arrived in Israel this week.
However, a Health Ministry’s spokesperson said on Thursday night that at the moment Omega can provide the serological tests and that starting from June 8, the tests will be performed by Femi. She added that the ministry has set NIS 108 as the maximum price that Femi will be able to charge.