Dozens of Israelis returning on flights from London refused to enter isolation made mandatory by ministers Sunday as their planes were midflight.
The move came after the coronavirus cabinet decided that all Israelis returning from the United Kingdom, Denmark and South Africa will be obliged to enter quarantine at state-run hotels effective immediately, as a precautionary measure to curb the spread of a mutated strain of the coronavirus.
The group of 35 were among 120 people on two planes that arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday afternoon - 80 on an easyJet plane and another 40 on a second flight operated by British Airways.
Twenty of the passengers refused to go into isolation and planned to return to London. Another 15 remained in the terminal at the airport, insisting that they would not enter quarantine.
The passengers on both flights were informed before boarding that they might be made to go into isolation upon arrival at Ben-Gurion. Foreign nationals who purchased tickets for the flights were not allowed to board either plane.
The returnees from the UK who did agree to isolation were escorted by police to their designated hotel upon arrival, in line with the coronavirus cabinet decision.
They were placed on directly a bus in order to avoid contact with passengers from other flights.
Amir, the driver of a bus transporting the passengers, said he was not troubled by the prospect of transporting the arrivals from the UK.
"I am well-protected," he said. "The passengers are sitting away from me and there is a divider between us. I have no contact with the passengers; they also handled their luggage themselves. I am sure that everything will be fine."
Tova, a traveler who returned on the easyJet flight, said: "They told us before the flight that maybe they would put us in an hotel, so that it would not be a surprise. Anyone who was not Israeli was not allowed to check in. We didn't really have time to prepare, as we were already at the airport with our bags.
"Everyone just wanted to get back to Israel. I am not angry, but they could have given us more notice. It's a shame that decisions like this are being made in such a way."
Backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash Sunday called for all flights to and from Israel to be halted while the severity of the mutation - and its possible response to the newly developed vaccines - is ascertained.