Dubai: Israel apologised to the UAE after a top official blamed a surge in coronavirus cases in the country to visits to the UAE.
Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of the Health Ministry’s public health department, was said to have remarked earlier this week that “in two weeks of peace [with the UAE] more people died than in 70 years of war”, alluding to the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in Israel after travel channels had reopened.
The comments came months after the normalisation of ties between the two countries and an increase in tourist trips.
Israel’s Channel 13, which reported Alroy-Preis’ comments, dismissed them as a joke.
However, noting that the remark had no basis in truth whatsoever, officials from the Prime Minister’s Office apologised to Emirati officials who had reached out for clarification, reported the Walla and Ynet news sites on Thursday.
Thousands of Israelis have traveled to the UAE since September and last week, Israel opened its embassy in the UAE.
Early in January, Israel saw a rise in coronavirus cases, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed on the new UK coronavirus variant. His government introduced new lockdown measures – including a closure of the Ben Gurion Airport – for two weeks.
Alroy-Preis told the Knesset on Monday: “The six days that we have decided to close Ben Gurion Airport will not be enough. We will have to extend the closure by at least a few weeks to buy time for the vaccination campaign.”
She was then reported blaming travel to the UAE for the rise.