If people can fly to Greece, why can't they spend a vacation in Eilat? This is the starting point of hoteliers in the city and its mayor, who are calling for a special plan allowing tourists to be accommodated in the remote city. The "Eilat Shield" model proposes letting Israelis come to the city in the same way as they enter other countries, that is, subject to the findings of a coronavirus test.
Eilat mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has travelled to Washington for the signing of the normalization agreement between Israel and the UAE, recalling the severe blow that Eilat suffered in the first lockdown. "The city will not be able to survive another economic crisis, because of the reliance of the city's entire economy on the tourist industry," Yitzhak Halevi wrote, pointing out that even after Eilat resumed activity and benefitted from high hotel occupancy rates in July-August, there were still 10,000 people unemployed or on unpaid leave, representing an unemployment rate of 30% in the city. "Nearly 900 out of 6,700 businesses in the city have not reopened, and most of them will never reopen," Yitzhak Halevi wrote. "Another lockdown is liable to bring Eilat's unemployment rate to a record 70% and turn it into an 'unemployment capsule'. A lockdown will lead to loss of product of more than NIS 1 billion in one month."
The Eilat Shilled plan defines Eilat as a 'green' city, ie, a city with a low rate of coronavirus infection. The plan is based on regular testing for tourism industry workers using the pooling technique (pooling of several tests) and testing for visitors. Under the plan, Eilat will set up 6-8 rapid testing stations for people arriving by car. People flying to Eilat will be tested at Ben Gurion Airport before taking off. Visitors will be asked to hand over the findings of the test at a checkpoint at the entrance to the city.
Anyone testing positive for coronavirus will in the quick test will be obliged to undergo a PCR test at Eilat's Yoseftal Hospital. Visitors who turn out to be suffering from coronavirus will be quarantined.
Visitors will also be able to present the results of tests carried out up to 48 hours before their arrival and will then not have to undergo further testing.
The assumption in the plan is that 3,000 tests will be carried out daily, of which 2% will probably give positive results, meaning that about 60 people will be found to be ill with the coronavirus each day.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on September 14, 2020
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