Israel set up rapid coronavirus testing stations across the country on Sunday, the Magen David Adom emergency service said, as the government tries to stave off another pandemic lockdown.
“Following a request from the Health Ministry, Magen David Adom on Sunday opened 120 rapid detection stations,” an MDA statement said.
The testing centers are aimed mainly at the non-vaccinated. Results are received in 15 minutes. Tests at the new stations will cost NIS 52 ($16) and will enable those tested to receive a Health Ministry pass valid for 24 hours.
But the first day of rapid testing got off to a shaky start, as some had to wait nearly three hours in line due to what appeared to be a shortage in tests, Channel 13 news reported. MDA blamed the long lines on a technical communications error, without elaborating further to the network.
A (Hebrew) list of test sites can be found here. Information is also available on the MDA hotline *3101.
Since Sunday morning, unvaccinated people over 12 must present a valid negative COVID-19 test to enter venues. The requirement will be extended to children under 12 from August 20.
Over the past week, Israel has been recording an average of more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases a day — the highest rate since April.
The rise in infections is a step back after its world-leading vaccine campaign drove down new COVID-19 cases from 10,000 a day to fewer than 100, and is blamed on the highly contagious Delta variant.
“Lockdown will be imposed as a last resort and we will do everything to avoid it,” Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said in a statement welcoming the launch of the rapid test service.
Last December, Israel was one of the first to launch a major vaccination campaign, thanks to an agreement with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer giving it rapid access to millions of doses in exchange for biomedical data on the effects of the vaccine.
Despite the campaign reducing the number of reported infections, contamination has risen again with the spread of the Delta variant.
Israel has now launched a campaign to provide a third booster dose of vaccine to the elderly and has also reinstated its Green Pass system. Over 400,000 people over age 60 have already received a third shot.