Israelis test positive for corona, enter quarantine in Dubai

The Chabad community is doing its best to offer support on the ground.

Emirates Airlines aircrafts are seen at Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates May 10, 2016 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Emirates Airlines aircrafts are seen at Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates May 10, 2016
(photo credit: REUTERS)
DUBAI – As Israelis flood into Dubai, dozens are being sent to quarantine after testing positive for the novel coronavirus.
With three airlines going into the emirate multiple times daily now, flights are packed and for those crammed into economy class, social distancing is zero, meaning many are starting their long-awaited vacations with a two-week quarantine.
The Chabad community is doing its best to support on the ground. Rabbi Levi Duchman, the Chabad resident rabbi, said the Chabad team is supporting well over 20 Israelis, but several more might still be unaccounted for. Numbers began to grow three weeks ago when flights commenced but the last week during Hanukkah, has seen a spike.
The team has moved several Israelis at their request from the shared government facility into private hotel accommodation, helping them liaise with insurance companies in Israel. “There are strict rules in place and we are doing everything we can to both abide by these measures and help the tourists who need us and make things more comfortable for them,” Rabbi Duchman said. “We’ve been giving them menorahs for Hanukkah, helping with kosher food and shabbat preparations,” he added.
The UAE has been one of the world’s highest testing countries since the outbreak began, 18.8m tests in total, with a death toll of 626. Active cases across the country stand at 22,170. Residents can also now access a free vaccine program developed by China’s Sinopharm.
Direct flights to Dubai began less than a month ago but after a tough year Israelis have been flying into the Gulf city in their thousands this month. Flydubai, the first to offer flights, has doubled its two daily flights to four, due to  demand.
Meiran Benita is one of those currently in quarantine, having arrived with her family for a dream vacation to escape lockdown in Israel. She arrived in Dubai last Thursday after having been tested prior to travel, and on Friday, was diagnosed positive. Immediately separated from her family, who have since returned to Israel, she is alone in an airport hotel. None of her family, her three children, husband and mother, tested positive. When she requested a retest, the Dubai Health Authority told her the test was accurate. She has shown no symptoms, but feels she ruined the holiday for the family, especially her mother, whose 60th birthday was the occasion bringing them together.
“Of course I have no words to describe the disappointment,” said Mrs Benita, who remained in voluntary isolation during the 96 hours between her Israeli Covid test and boarding the flight, “but it’s really important for me to tell my story to help people prepare for what a worst case scenario this could be.”
With no official embassy to turn to, it has been an uncertain time. Mrs Benita is unable to open a window under the strict conditions of her isolation. She chose the hotel, at a cost of 250 shekels per night, rather than the free isolation facilities the government of Dubai provides, in a shared room. Had she realized her holiday could turn out this way, she says she would not have taken the risk. “We are smart after things happen,” she said, smiling, and remarkably upbeat under the circumstances.
Though there is no embassy presence in the UAE, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “Any Israeli that needs help should call the 24/7 MFA control center for assistance.”
The number is 02-5303155.