The Health Ministry is planning to increase the period of time that a rapid coronavirus test can be used for access to venues, doubling it to up to 48 hours, Hebrew media reported Sunday.
Officials hope the change, which has yet to be confirmed, will reduce pressure on virus testing centers that have been overwhelmed in recent days with some forced to wait three hours or more to be tested.
Rapid virus tests are one of the methods approved under the Green Pass system which grants entry to public venues and events only to those who are vaccinated against COVID-19, have recovered from the disease, or have had a negative result from a recent virus test.
Since children below the age of 12 do not yet qualify for vaccination, parents are forced to take kids in that age group for a virus test in order to visit venues such as swimming pools, performances, or leisure centers. Unvaccinated people must likewise obtain daily virus tests to enter many locations, including restaurants.
By increasing the validity of rapid antigen tests from the current 24 hours to at least 48 — one report said it could be as much as 72 hours — officials hope to cut the number of visits made to test centers. The change will be acutely felt next week with the start of the week-long Sukkoth festival when schools are closed and many families head to leisure sites.
In addition, the ministry is considering changing the Green Pass requirements for hotels that currently require all those who are not vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 to take a PCR virus test. The ministry will instead make the rapid virus tests also valid for hotel stays. The move is intended to take the pressure off PCR testing labs as those tests are used for the more significant diagnosis of patients and for obtaining permission to leave quarantine early, Channel 12 news reported.
Also, home virus testing kits are to be subsidized and will cost just NIS 10 each, the Kan public broadcaster reported, a move intended to encourage people to test themselves first if they are concerned about infection rather than immediately going to a testing center, further reducing the load on the sites.
Israel has been striving to tamp down a recent surge of infections that has seen the daily caseload break through the 10,000 mark, up from June there were barely more than a dozen cases diagnosed each day. The government has made vaccination a key element of its strategy to bring down numbers.
Health Ministry figures show that the chances of an unvaccinated person being infected with the coronavirus are 35 times higher than those who have had the shots, Kan reported. Unvaccinated people are eight times more likely to become seriously ill with the disease than those who are vaccinated, according to the report.