Israeli health officials said Monday that they are considering lifting the order for nationals returning from abroad to quarantine in government-run hotels, as it is seen as unnecessary during a countrywide lockdown.
Israel on Sunday went into its third lockdown since the start of the pandemic, closing shops, businesses and entertainment centers for at least two weeks, and restricting people to no more than 1km from their homes.
Meanwhile, the country has also embarked on a mass vaccination campaign and is currently the world leader in administering the vaccine, with 4.37 people per 100 of the population having already received the first dose.
The decision on isolating in hotels must be taken before Thursday, when the government order expires. Officials have failed to enforce the regulation with more than 50% of returning travelers refusing to go to the government-run facilities.
"We send those who make trouble home, we just cannot deal with them," one official stationed at Ben-Gurion International Airport said Sunday.
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch told Ynet on Monday that since the Pfizer vaccine is considered to be effective against the new strain of COVID-19, and since vaccination of Israelis over the age of 60 or with underlying illnesses is already underway, there is no real need to quarantine in hotels.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein agreed. "The vaccines appear to be effective against the new strain," he said.
After hearing from officials that home quarantines were not being observed by more than 40% of those instructed to isolate, the government decided last week that all Israelis returning from abroad must be transported from the airport directly to the hotels.
According to Health Ministry directives, the quarantine period could be shortened from 14 days to 10 provided individuals had two negative coronavirus tests.
An official told Ynet that the order for hotels will likely now be rescinded.
"There is no need to extend the order. It has been criticized and there is no indication that hotel quarantine is more effective, especially now that a lockdown is in effect," he said.