COVID mishap: Health Ministry puts wrong travelers into quarantine

Travelers who took Egged bus 390 on November 23 had been asked by the Health Ministry to quarantine after the ministry mistakenly believed that a woman diagnosed with the Omicron variant was onboard.

 Israeli police officers near Eged Bus on road number 1 near Jerusalem on April 5, 2020, after earlier a man who was tested positive for the coronavirus arrested on the bus.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Israeli police officers near Eged Bus on road number 1 near Jerusalem on April 5, 2020, after earlier a man who was tested positive for the coronavirus arrested on the bus.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The driver and passengers of an Egged bus were released from isolation Sunday night after the Health Ministry discovered that it had made a mistake and the first woman to be diagnosed with the Omicron variant had not, in fact, traveled with them.

The driver and all the travelers who took Egged bus 390 on November 23 had been asked by the Health Ministry to quarantine pending a negative coronavirus test result. However, it turned out that the passenger infected with the variant was never on that bus. Actually, she traveled to Eilat the day before.

The government issued a new request for people who were on the same bus line at 2:30 p.m. on November 22 to head into isolation and be tested. However, this means that until Sunday night when the discovery of the mistake was made, these travelers and passengers were roaming freely.

A recording of a conversation between the bus driver and a Health Ministry representative named only as “Avishag” was released Monday morning by Ynet. In the recording, the representative asks the driver: “You were told to go into isolation, right?”

When he responds in the affirmative, she says, “It’s canceled. There was a mistake. The sick person was not on the bus. So that is it: You do not have to be in isolation.”

 Ben-Gurion Airport in wake of the new travel imposed in light of the COVID Omicron variant, November 28, 2021.  (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) Ben-Gurion Airport in wake of the new travel imposed in light of the COVID Omicron variant, November 28, 2021. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Listen to the conversation on Ynet.

Ynet spoke to the driver, who did not share his name. He expressed anger at the woman who got on the bus with a positive result: “This woman has to pay dearly,” he said. “She endangered others.”

The trip from Tel Aviv to Eilat by bus takes more than four hours. Aside from a rest stop, the only other stops are when passengers get on or off the bus.