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Rapid tests at entrance to events to be ready in 2 weeks, health official says

But Sharon Alroy-Preis warns that overreliance on speedy examinations for those without ‘Green Pass’ could overwhelm system and slow response times

A woman shows her 'Green Pass' before entering a concert for vaccinated seniors, organized by the municipality of Tel Aviv, on February 24, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
A woman shows her 'Green Pass' before entering a concert for vaccinated seniors, organized by the municipality of Tel Aviv, on February 24, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The head of public health services in the Health Ministry, Sharon Alroy-Preis, told a Knesset panel Tuesday that rapid coronavirus tests for use at the entrance to public events as part of the “Green Pass” system should be ready for use within two weeks, but said that if they are widely used it could overwhelm the system and slow down the response times.

As Israel sees its third national coronavirus lockdown eased, most businesses and activities are now being made available to holders of the Green Pass indicating they are vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19. However, the question remaining is which activities will be open to those who do not fall into either category.

The matter is being debated. There has been talk of allowing non-Green Pass holders to access some activities with the presentation of a negative coronavirus test from the preceding 48 hours. The cabinet’s latest rules, issued Saturday, allow up to five percent of attendants at event venues to be people with negative tests rather than a Green Pass.

Alroy-Preis, speaking at the Knesset Justice and Law Committee, confirmed Tuesday that the government was looking at enabling rapid coronavirus testing at the entrance to various businesses, providing results within minutes.

Head of public health services in the Health Ministry, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, during an undated government meeting (Knesset Spokesperson)

She warned, however, that overreliance on these tests would overwhelm the healthcare system, which would slow response times as a result.

“There could be use of rapid tests at the entrances to events, but with the current rate of 3,000-4,000 confirmed cases per day, using rapid tests for the Green Pass would flood the test system,” Alroy-Preis said.

She added these rapid tests are only meant for those who cannot get vaccinated due to extenuating circumstances, such as an allergy to one of the ingredients in the vaccine.

While Alroy-Preis said the system could be functional within two weeks, it is still unclear who will pay for the rapid tests, and a senior Health Ministry figure told Channel 12 news Sunday that “the government supplies vaccines for free to all of its citizens, so there’s no reason to also finance [these] tests.”

Medical technicians test passengers for COVID-19 at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on March 8, 2021 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The unnamed source added that financing the quick tests may give legitimacy to the anti-vaccine stance, which the government is reluctant to do, adding: “Anyone who doesn’t want to get vaccinated and wants to enter cultural events will have to fund the tests themselves – in [government-backed] venues and in independent ones.”

As part of the new COVID-19 regulations, restaurants can seat Green Pass holders indoors with up to 75% capacity, up to 100 people. Outdoor seating does not require a Green Pass, with a limitation of up to 100 people.

Sporting and other cultural events can be held for Green Pass holders in auditoriums or stadiums of 10,000 seats with 1,000 people in attendance in a closed space, or 1,500 in an open space.

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