How daily COVID-19 testing will work for groups under new travel outline

According to the plan, up to 2,000 travelers approved by the Tourism Ministry can enter the country every day.

The new “Check2Fly” coronavirus testing lab at Ben-Gurion Airport's Terminal 3, November 9, 2020 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The new “Check2Fly” coronavirus testing lab at Ben-Gurion Airport's Terminal 3, November 9, 2020
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The outline for group tourism will be expanded on November 1 to include groups that receive approval to enter Israel from the Tourism Ministry.

While all of the travelers must be vaccinated by a vaccine that is approved by the World Health Organization, these groups can include people who received only two shots of the vaccine and not three so long as they agree to function in Israel like a “capsule.” What this means is that its members can only be in contact with other people in their group. They will not have free time outside of the group, and their movement will be restricted in areas where there is an increased risk of infection.

According to the plan, up to 2,000 travelers approved by the Tourism Ministry can enter the country every day. None of the group members could have been in a “red” country with high infection rates within 14 days of coming to Israel.

In addition, travelers will need to be tested every day with an antigen test or every three days with a PCR test.

How will that work?

AID GENOMICS CEO Snir Zano. (credit: Tomer Shunem Halevi)AID GENOMICS CEO Snir Zano. (credit: Tomer Shunem Halevi)

To understand, The Jerusalem Post spoke with Snir Zano, the CEO of AID Genomics, and Dr. Asaf Gertler, the company’s vice president of clinical affairs.

AID Genomics is an international company in the field of diagnostics, the early diagnosis and treatment of genetically based diseases. The company operates the biggest COVID-19 testing lab in Israel – and the Middle East – and has already supplied tens of millions of test kits to over 20 countries.

AID Genomics is setting up some 380 new testing stations across the country to accommodate the influx of travelers.

Groups will be able to visit one of these testing stations or arrange to have AID come to their hotel and test everyone at once. Other companies are also setting up complexes and will be available to test, such as Magen David Adom and other private testing companies.

Zano said that because tourists tend to be on tight schedules, he expects that the hotel testing option will be the most used.

Tour operators will be the ones to arrange the testing for these groups directly through the companies. AID said that they can deliver results back as a group so that everyone receives results at the same time.

Rapid antigen tests take only about 20 minutes from test to results, and therefore results are given on the spot. In contrast, PCR tests need to be sent to the lab and results come in up to 12 hours.

The antigen test results are valid for 24 hours and the PCR for 72. However, the cost of both tests turns out to be almost the same. An antigen test costs around NIS 30 but needs to be done every day. A PCR test costs around NIS 100, but lasts three days.

All registered testing companies are integrated with the Health Ministry’s Green Pass website and any one who tests negative will be able to access their Green Pass from there.

When asked whether he thought the system would work, Zano said, “the tests are available. The country’s infrastructure allows for it.

“So, it really all depends on messaging,” he said. “Will the tour companies understand what they need to do? Will the travelers want to come and do it, or will it feel too complicated?”