Dozens of people waiting in line to get tested for COVID in Tel Aviv

Omicron surge strains Israel's testing capacity with endless lines

Disgruntled citizens report waiting in queue for hours for a PCR test; health officials fear overcrowding at testing hubs may serve as a hotbed for mass infections

Eitan Glickman, Sivan Hilaie, Gilad Cohen |
Published: 01.02.22, 19:03
Seemingly endless queues stretched across overcrowded coronavirus testing centers all around Israel on Sunday as the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant continues to fuel a sharp spike in cases.
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  • The public’s rush to the testing complexes came after various health officials issued predictions the spread of the new strain will peak in the coming weeks.
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    מתחם בדיקות תל אביב
    מתחם בדיקות תל אביב
    Dozens of people waiting in line to get tested for COVID in Tel Aviv
    (Photo: Sivan Hilaie)
    In Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Caesarea, Herzliya, among other localities, people waiting to get tested were left waiting for two hours or more.
    At Herzeliya’s drive-through testing complex, meanwhile, the sheer mass of cars waiting in line prompted the police to ask the public to take alternative routes so as not to aggravate the traffic jam in the area.
    "The line is very long but we have no choice because my daughter's teacher had tested positive,” said one Tel Aviv resident who waited in line with her toddler to get tested for more than an hour.
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    עומס במתחם בדיקות קורונה בנתניה
    עומס במתחם בדיקות קורונה בנתניה
    An aerial view of the queue in Netanya's drive-through testing complex
    (Photo: Yair Sagi)
    [The line] is hardly orderly. People sneak in from the flanks, there are no numbers and no control. Being stuck here in line with hundreds of people is also a sure way to contract COVID."
    In Jerusalem, the queues weren’t any better.
    “I was here with my son not a week ago and it took barely a minute,” says one man who took his daughter to one of the drive-through testing complexes in the capital due to exposure to a confirmed virus carrier. “I think we will be here for at least another two hours.”
    4 View gallery
    עומס במתחם בדיקות קורונה דרייב אין בירושלים
    עומס במתחם בדיקות קורונה דרייב אין בירושלים
    Waiting in line in one of Jerusalem's drive-through testing complexes
    (Photo: Gilad Cohen)
    Meanwhile, not only PCR testing complexes were busy Sunday, as rapid antigen testing stations have registered a heavy workload.
    “I was exposed in my school,” says one woman waiting in line at an antigen testing hub in Jerusalem. “The only thing that went through my mind when I saw the line was ‘help me’."
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned at a Cabinet earlier Sunday of an exponential increase in coronavirus cases.
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    ישיבת ממשלה
    ישיבת ממשלה
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during Sunday's Cabinet meeting
    (Photo: GPO)
    “We are all feeling the rise in infections, and we are likely to see them doubling, and then see a doubling of the doubling, already in the coming days. This is how it works,” said Bennett, sounding the alarm over Israel's so-called fifth wave.
    “The healthcare system, as well as the rest of the country, is bracing for this wave while closely monitoring the Omicron’s behavior in South Africa, the United States and Europe.
    Our end goal is always the same — allow our economy to function as much as possible while protecting those among us who are most vulnerable."
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