COVID-19 coronavirus antigen test קורונה
COVID-19 coronavirus antigen test קורונהiStock

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) on Tuesday morning approved a plan to distribute free COVID-19 antigen tests to Israeli citizens.

The plan will utilize the ability of "delivery agents," who will be responsible for delivering the kits to the citizens of Israel so that the distribution will be executed as quickly and as reliably as possible.

In the daily assessment that was held Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Bennett emphasized that the distribution is based on substantive considerations pursuant to which a distinction will be made between various populations, in order to allow for continued economic activity alongside the safeguarding of public health.

The distribution of the kits is expected to begin next week as per the logistical preparations. An exact date will be announced later.

The plan, which is currently a draft, will be updated as necessary, according to developments.

Under it, in the school system (ages 0-18) six kits per pupil will be distributed, in one phase, for a two-week period; the possibility of a second phase will be evaluated. The distribution will be carried out by the Health and Education ministries and local authorities.

In geriatric hospitals and retirement homes, 2.5 million kits will be distributed to institutions, where they will be distributed to caregivers and those under care, as per Health Ministry directives. The distribution will be carried out by the Health Ministry.

The approximately 450,000 families receiving support from welfare services will each receive a kit with 20 tests.

The approximately 25,000 seniors being cared for in Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry social clubs that provide food security and day centers will receive three test kits a week, for three weeks (a total of nine kits per person). The distribution will be carried out by the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry, IDF Home Front Command, and local authorities.

Approximately 350,000 higher education students will also receive antigen test kits, but the number of tests per student and the method of distribution are still being evaluated.

In essential factories, the Defense Ministry's National Emergency Authority and the Economy and Industry Ministry will, to the extent necessary, evaluate the criteria and formulate a recommendation for a coordinated distribution plan.

Following the release of the plan, Bennett said: "The government is looking for every way to assist the citizens of Israel in getting through the Omicron wave. We have decided to provide free tests to the citizens of Israel, pupils, and the overall population. Also, yesterday we announced the shortening of the quarantine period to five days. Instead of lockdowns, we are working to find solutions in order to keep the economy functioning however possible and to get through the worst of the wave together."

Horowitz added: "We are committed to supplying all of the tools in order to safeguard the health of every person in Israel, alongside maintaining the economy, education, and life alongside coronavirus. We are seeing to continual stocks of vaccines for everyone, to drugs and dedicated care for all who need them, and tests on a wide scale that will enable us to forestall infection and morbidity. In parallel to the testing stations throughout the country, just as we promised, we are embarking on a major effort to distribute millions of free tests to the public."

"I call on the public: Use the tests. It is simple, accessible, and free. You will safeguard yourselves and thus we will safeguard those at risk who are liable to become severely ill. This is the social responsibility of each and every one of us."

Liberman said, "The decision to provide free tests to the citizens of Israel, particularly the vulnerable populations, alongside shortening the quarantine period to five days subject to negative test results, is important news that will allow us to live alongside coronavirus."

"I have said throughout that we are prepared to get through this wave by providing focused assistance and showing responsibility for the sectors that have been hurt. I thank the Prime Minister and the Health Minister for cooperating in bringing considered and responsible decisions. We will continue to monitor the data and economic activity, and we will see to it that everyone receives the assistance they deserve."