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

At the height of the Omicron wave, the Health Ministry moved to provide hundreds of thousands of home antigen tests to alleviate the burden at national COVID testing sites which provided PCR tests. PCR tests became reserved for at-risk populations such as the elderly or the immunocompromised.

With the Omicron wave beginning to wane and case numbers declining, there is talk of returning to the previous system of allowing all citizens to use the PCR testing sites, especially in light of the greater reliability of PCR tests.

Prof. Ron Balicer, the head of a panel of experts which advises the Health Ministry on COVID policy, told Channel 12 News: "We can't make frantic changes in policy, but must formulate a fixed policy and work with it."

"We need to carry out orderly staff work on all aspects of COVID management and make decisions for the period after the decline of the fifth wave," he said.

Prof. Hagai Levine, former chairman of the Association of Public Health Physicians, told Channel 12 News that "when the extent of the disease changes, we need to make policy changes and not automatically continue what we did before."

"The very fact that there is a possibility of a home test is positive and very easy for the public. The question is whether it is now right to prevent people under the age of thirty from performing PCR tests." he said,

Regarding the reliability of home tests, Prof. Levine claimed that "antigen tests give a relatively good indication of whether a person is contagious and especially if they are tested day after day. These tests are valuable so there is no need to rush back to the PCR complexes en masse."

Ultimately, the two experts explain, a policy needs to be formulated for the future. At the information desk for the fight against the coronavirus, it was clarified that currently there is no change in the testing policy, even in light of the recent decrease in morbidity. However, it is not clear whether the possibility of performing non-PCR antigen tests will continue in the future.