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Mass distribution of free rapid COVID tests to begin next week

Israelis to receive 25-30 million antigen kits, with some earmarked for the elderly, schools and most vulnerable

An illustrative photo of rapid antigen home kit tests for coronavirus, on January 9, 2022. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
An illustrative photo of rapid antigen home kit tests for coronavirus, on January 9, 2022. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Some 25 million to 30 million rapid at-home coronavirus test kits will be distributed for free throughout Israel, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman announced on Tuesday.

According to an official statement, distribution is set to begin next week, with some of the tests to be earmarked for specific segments of the population.

In the first wave of distribution, each student in the education system will receive a set of six home tests, with another round of delivery possible.

Retirement facilities will receive 2.5 million, 450,000 will be given to families in need and 350,000 to college and university students.

Tests will also be provided to essential industries, with criteria to be decided by the ministries of defense and finance.

During the meeting on the plan, Bennett said the step was vital to keep Israel’s economy open and to maintain public health.

Illustrative: Prime Minister Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, right, and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz hold a press conference at HaKirya military base in Tel Aviv, November 26, 2021. (Moti Milrod)

“The government will continue to advance steps that will allow the citizens of Israel to get through the Omicron wave,” he said in the statement.

The demand for rapid tests is expected to go up after the government on Monday announced that the mandatory quarantine period for Israelis infected with COVID-19 would be shortened from a week to five days.

Vaccinated people who are infected but asymptomatic will need two negative antigen tests, on the fourth and fifth day, to be released from quarantine. Unvaccinated asymptomatic people will need the test on the fifth day to be conducted at a recognized testing facility, and cannot rely on a home test.

Those still displaying symptoms are required to keep isolating for a total of 10 days.

The move also shortens the isolation period for people exposed to a confirmed coronavirus carrier, who currently must quarantine for at least a week if they are unvaccinated or did not recover from COVID (those with immunity are already exempt from quarantine if they test negative after being in close contact with an infected person).

The new rules are set to take effect Wednesday.

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