Ben Gurion airport Covid testing dispute threatens tourism

Israel Materials 4 May 2021 09:59 (UTC +04:00)
Ben Gurion airport Covid testing dispute threatens tourism

Plans to open Ben Gurion airport in less than three weeks to foreign tourism remain unceretain because of a legal dispute about Covid-19 testing. Omega, the company that won the tender for the testing last year has been disqualified and the concession winner will be changed and passengers will be asked to pay more, Trend reports with reference to Globes.

Last August, the Israel Airports Authority issued a tender for Covid testing at Ben Gurion airport, which was won by Omega with a bid, in cooperation with Rambam Hospital in Haifa. Omega's prices were one third of any other bid - NIS 45 for results within 14 hours and NIS 135 for results within four hours.

However, Pangea, the company which came second in the tender petitioned the High Court of Justice, which ruled that the tender had not been conducted properly and disqualified Omega. Thus Pangea is preparing to set up a testing network at the airport to replace Omega. The changeover is supposed to be conducted without disrupting activities at the airport. The price of testing is expected to jump to NIS 149 from NIS 45 for a regular test.

Meanwhile from May 23 foreign tourists are supposed to return to Israel. In the pilot stage 30 tour groups with about 600 vaccinated tourists will be allowed in. About 5,000 passengers currently land at Ben Gurion airport each day and this number is expected to double in June and triple to 15,000 in July.

The hope is that the tour group trial will prove successful and larger number will be allowed in using closely supervised mechanisms to protect against Covid being brought into the country.

Omega will cease operating on May 22 and the Ministry of Health is conducting a pricing survey among the other companies for the Covid-19 tests and serology tests for tourists to check that they have developed adequate antibodies from their vaccinations. Omega will be paid NIS 43 million by the government for its services between March 24 and May 22.

But while the Ministry of Health conducts its pricing, Pangea insists (supported by the Israel Airports Authority) that it is now the tender winner and entitled to conduct the testing at the airport. Pangea's lawyer S. Horowitz & Co. partner Adv. Eran Bezalel said that another tender would be "in complete contradiction to the basic principles of tenders law and proper administrative rules."

Ministry of Health said it is, "Checking alternatives for providing PCR testing for those arriving at Ben Gurion airport and will arrange matters accordingly." The Ministry declined to respond to any other questions on the matter.

The Israel Airports Authority said, "We await the Ministry of Health's decision and will act accordingly."

Omega declined to comment.