COVIDצילום: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Israeli leaders on Sunday debated the direction government policy should take regarding the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic, following warnings by Health Ministry officials that the country’s testing labs could soon be overwhelmed in the face of the spreading Omicron variant.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said during the cabinet meeting Sunday that the government will soon have to ration COVID tests, noting that demand would likely exceed testing capacity.

“We will need to limit who can get tests, because there won’t be sufficient capacity in the testing system – no country will have enough.”

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) concurred, adding that the next wave of the pandemic would likely be ‘extreme’ – though shorter than previous waves, Channel 12 reported.

“This will be an extreme wave, but short.”

“We’re doing the largest number of tests in the world relative [to population size], so there are long lines.”

“We will cut testing and impose criteria limiting who needs to get tested.”

Cabinet ministers pushed back on the government’s plans for handling the Omicron variant, arguing that the constant changes in policy have confused the public.

“We are confusing the public,” said Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev (Labor). “We need to make a decision and not change it for at least two weeks.”

“We’re fighting a war,” Health Minister Horowitz responded, “and we have to change our decisions in the middle of the situation. For example, we still don’t know how many hospitalized patients there will be as a percentage of confirmed carriers.”

Bennett also defended the plan to change the regulations regarding COVID tests, saying that “On the supply side, we won’t be able to keep up.”

Some ministers also called for easing restrictions on public activity.

Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov (Yesh Atid) called for limits on air travel to be rolled back.

“We need to drop the limits at Ben Gurion Airport, both for vaccinated travelers coming back, and to allow vaccinated tourists in.”