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Positive result on a COVID-19 rapid antigen test

The Israeli government has approved a plan to distribute some 25 to 30 million free rapid antigen tests to Israelis across the country.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday announced the plan, which is based on using “delivery agents” to distribute the kits.

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During an assessment held earlier in the day, Prime Minister Bennett said that the distribution is based on substantive considerations in which a distinction will be made between various populations (those under the care of the welfare services, the education system, seniors and retirement homes, etc.) “in order to allow for continued economic activity and the safeguarding of public health.”

The distribution of the kits is expected to begin sometime next week in accordance with logistical preparations.

The plan is still in draft form and “will be updated as necessary according to developments,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

In the education system (ages 0-18), six kits per pupil are to be distributed in one phase for a two-week period, with the possibility of a second phase at some later point. The distribution will be carried out by the Health and Education ministries and local authorities.

Distribution to some 350,000 in post-secondary education institutions, which include the Council for Higher Education, various academic institutions and student associations, is still being evaluated.

Two and a half million kits will be delivered to geriatric hospitals and retirement homes, where they will be distributed among caregivers and those under care in accordance with Health Ministry directives. The distribution will be carried out by the Health Ministry, officials said.

For those under care of Israeli social services, some 450,000 families who are receiving support will also each receive a kit containing 20 tests.

The approximately 25,000 seniors being cared for in day centers and social clubs run by the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry will receive three test kits a week for three weeks (a total of nine kits per person).

Distribution to these facilities will be carried out by the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry, IDF Home Front Command and local authorities.

As for “essential factories,” the Defense Ministry National Emergency Authority and the Economy and Industry Ministry “will, to the extent necessary, evaluate the criteria and formulate a recommendation on a coordinated distribution plan,” the PMO said.

“The government is looking for every way to assist the citizens of Israel in getting through the Omicron wave,” noted the prime minister.

“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,” Bennett said.

“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,” he said.

“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,” said the health minister.

“In parallel with 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,” Horowitz emphasized.

“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.”

The finance minister called the decision “important news that will allow us to live alongside the 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,” Liberman said. “We will continue to monitor the data and economic activity, and we will see to it that everyone receives the assistance they deserve.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.