Israel will start handing out free antigen rapid testing kits in order to reduce the number of people entering isolation and keep the economy open amid the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19.
The agreement was formulated by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and will see the state distribute some 30-25 million tests starting next week, with an emphasis on at-risk and needy populations.
“In the daily situation assessment held Tuesday morning, the prime minister emphasized that certain considerations guided the method of the kits’ distribution... In order to allow the economy to keep functioning and maintain the public’s health,” the Prime Minister’s Office said Tuesday.
The new agreement will also see about 450,000 needy families under the care of the Welfare Ministry receive 20 testing kits each, while some 25,000 seniors will receive three testing kits a week for a period of three weeks.
Children up to the age of 18, meanwhile, will be entitled to receive six testing kits in the first two weeks of distribution.
Geriatric hospitals and nursing homes will receive 2.5 million tests that will be transferred to institutions, which will distribute the kits autonomously between staffers and patients in accordance with the guidelines of the Health Ministry.
The government is also currently examining the number of tests needed for some 350,000 schoolchildren, who will most likely receive the kits from their respective educational institutions, as well as the distribution of tests to essential workers.
“The government is looking for any way to help Israeli citizens beat the Omicron wave. Therefore we have decided to transfer free tests to Israeli citizens, students and the general population," said Bennett.
"In addition, [on Monday] we announced a shortening of the compulsory isolation to five days. Instead of closures, we are working to find solutions in order to keep the economy as functional as possible,” he added.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said: "We are committed to providing all the tools to maintain the health of every person in Israel, along with the preservation of the economy, education and life alongside the coronavirus.”
Finance Minister Lieberman, added: "The decision to grant free tests to Israeli citizens, with an emphasis on vulnerable populations, along with shortening the isolation period to five days… are two important decisions that will allow us to live alongside COVID.”