Israel has apologized to the UAE for what it claimed was an “unsuccessful joke” which linked the surge of infection rates with the number of Israeli tourists to the Gulf state, Khaleej Times reported on Friday.
Health Ministry Chief of Public Health Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis said, in jest, that "more people died in two weeks of peace with Dubai" – because Israeli tourists returned with COVID-19 infections – "than in 70 years of war with them." Alroy-Preis was alluding to the fact the Gulf state, which doesn’t share a border with Israel, has never been involved in any direct conflict with the Jewish state.
Israel is facing alarming coronavirus infection rates, causing the airport and land borders to shut down since Monday in order to prevent more infected persons from coming. The IDF found that 900 Israelis who returned from Dubai had COVID-19, these people didn’t carry out the required quarantine upon arrival. This created a chain of infection causing roughly 4,000 people to be infected, the Star Tribune reported.
Israeli officials quickly apologized for the comment, saying that the health expert made "false allegations" and that she isn't meant to speak on behalf of Israel on such matters.
Dubai was the first travel destination to claim it is back to normal, meaning open to pre-COVID-19 travel.
Since New Year's Eve, however, the UAE had seen a dramatic increase in the numbers of infected persons.
British residents, who were also allowed to visit the Gulf kingdom, were informed in mid-January they will need to remain in quarantine for two weeks should they travel there. Denmark, another country which accepted returning Danes without quarantine, reported that its first patient with the South African variant of COVID-19 came from Dubai. The Philippines reported that its first case of a citizen with the British strain of the novel coronavirus was someone who was also returning from Dubai. Both strains spread much faster in the general population than the original one.
While the UAE reported it gave 2.8 million shots of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine Sinopharm and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, it isn't clear what the situation currently is. The Saudi-German Hospital told Star Tribune it is "hoping to read the real news."
Half the beds at Dubai's NMC Royal Hospital now serve patients with COVID-19.
Dubai's former finance chief Nasser al-Shaikh lamented this turn of events, saying that "great efforts" had been made since January 2020 and now, "with our own hands," they have been undermined.