As Israel keeps making strides towards fully reopening its economy, on Tuesday it started operating a rapid COVID-19 antigen testing service at Ben Gurion Airport for travelers who wish to go abroad.
The project was initially launched by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Miri Regev last November, but recurring coronavirus lockdowns, including the shuttering of the airport, postponed its opening.
The lab will be operated by Check2Fly, a joint company made up of Omega Pharmaceuticals and Haifa's Rambam Health Care Campus, and will offer the public two high-quality and reliable PCR testing options. The first is a quick test that provides results within four hours, costing NIS 134.64, and a second that provides results within 14 hours at a cost of NIS 44.88.
"After much hard work of everyone involved, we are proud to announce the launch of the rapid testing service," said Omega CEO Lily Nankin.
"This is an exciting landmark, and now we are looking forward to the opening of the country's skies. I have no doubt that the new test route will benefit returning travelers and that the system will provide the best and highest quality service to safeguard national health security."
Rambam Medical Center Director General Dr. Michael Halbertal said that "the aim of the project is to allow a return to normal life as much as possible while protecting public health and maintaining maximum professionalism."
Meanwhile, Israel's flag carrier El Al Airlines used its own rapid PCR testing scheme on a trial flight on Monday.
The antigen tests, developed by Sheba Medical Center, take 15 minutes to deliver results and are considered reliable for detecting active coronavirus infection, an El Al spokesman said, adding that the rapid tests kits would be provided to passengers for free, for now.
Used widely, the method could reduce social distancing that limits turnover at airports and cramps passenger comfort, and allow "business as usual" for duty-free shops and restaurants.