Senior health officials on Sunday expressed concern over the return of Israelis from the UAE infected with COVID-19, as the government is unwilling to include the Gulf state on the list of countries that require arrivals in Israel to quarantine for two weeks due to a high infection rate there.
According to one official, the situation "is a ticking time bomb."
The decision to omit the UAE from the list came after government officials, including the heads of the Foreign Ministry, expressed concern that doing so would harm the budding ties between the two nations.
"Dubai is our next Turkey," one high-ranking official told Ynet, alluding to the large number of Israeli Arabs who were infected by coronavirus on their visits to there and who were believed to have caused a mass contagion in their own communities upon their return.
While the UAE does not strictly qualify as a "red" country, it has seen soaring infection rates in recent weeks and the large numbers of Israeli visitors could spell disaster for Israel's own infection rate.
"It is a ticking time bomb," the official said, adding that since so many Israelis have flocked to the UAE since commercial flights began last week, they must be instructed to isolate when they return.
Officials believe there are some 10,000 Israelis currently in the UAE.
The Health Ministry estimates at least 224 people infected by coronavirus will be among those traveling back to Israel in the course of December. This is a higher number than is estimated for arrivals from any other country.
"Any mistake could cost us dearly," the official said. "We are already hearing about parties and celebrations."
The officials are concerned that mitigation measures are not being observed by the visiting Israelis, who have been see crowding together in clubs and parties on social media posts.
"If we know in advance which countries could be a source of infection, we should act quickly," the official said.
"I don't know what reasons were taken into consideration when deciding to leave the UAE off the list of countries requiring quarantine. It may be diplomatic reasons or economic ones but either way we have to sound the alarm and warn of the impending danger," he said, adding that Israel is experiencing a surge in cases and ignoring this threat would be unwise.
According to official information released by the UAE, the country carried out 156,513 tests for COVID-19 on Saturday, with 1,154 positive results indicating a 1.1% infection rate.