The national emergency service Magen David Adom (MDA) on Thursday reported an abnormally high coronavirus infection rate among Israeli worshippers who traveled to Ukraine for the Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage.
Over 30,000 members of the Breslov Hasidic movement and other religious and non-religious Jews descended on the Ukrainian city of Uman this year for a three-day festival at the gravesite of the movement's founder Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.
The lion's share of worshipers arrived from Israel, but many others also came from France, Britain, Canada, and the United States among other countries.
Over 10,000 Israeli pilgrims arrived in the country weeks ago for fear of COVID-19-related travel restrictions and some stayed there more than a month with their families.
Israel has issued a travel warning to Ukraine due to relatively high coronavirus infection rates in the Eastern European country and requires travelers to self-isolate for seven days upon their arrival in Israel.
MDA reported high demand and heavy crowding at coronavirus testing stations in Uman Wednesday night where pilgrims are offered rapid and cheap coronavirus tests.
As the positive diagnoses kept mounting, some interest groups — namely local forgers offering fake tests — began spreading disinformation among the pilgrims, with some claiming that the Health Ministry-approved testing kits were fake or that MDA was manufacturing fake results because it was committed to a certain quota of positive tests.
Some even began circulating stories about pilgrims who have initially tested positive for the virus at the MDA testing hub, but then tested negative several hours later.
MDA rejected the claims categorically and said that it had no interest in forging test results.
Sources familiar with the event have told Ynet of several pilgrims who have tested positive for the pathogen but then managed to evade quarantine and get on a bus to the capital of Kyiv where they bought a negative test from local forgers and boarded a flight to Israel. Officials are concerned they may have infected others on the bus and then on the flight.