In Israel, omicron, chaos leads to ‘real panic’ over testing

Tel Aviv, Israel — Aviran Yael picks up rapid antigen kits from a pharmacy in Tel Aviv’s busy center, puts them in a light blue bag strapped to the back of a motorcycle, and sets off to deliver them.

With this, Yael joins the growing army of couriers on Monday Walter courier boxes around Israel, a sight that has become ubiquitous in the three years since the Finnish company began operating here.

The payload in the blue box changed when the Israeli government authorized more home testing last week to ease the burden on testing centers.

Almost immediately, as the omicron coronavirus variant set records for infections, rapid antigen tests became the platform’s most popular product — even surpassing food delivery, its core business, officials said.

to monday, as Walter A modern headquarters has opened in a blue building in Tel Aviv, with requests for antigen tests every three seconds – a reflection of general public anxiety and confusion over the government’s changing policies on the pandemic.

“These tests are really scary,” Yael said.

even in relatively wealthy Israel, governments and the governed are grappling with an alarming surge in omicron as it rages across the globe, sparking anxiety in a place known for its tension. Since the variant emerged in South Africa in November, the government has closed and reopened airports, changed testing policies, tightened and relaxed quarantine requirements and left people confused about whether and how to send children to school.

Faced with declining public approval ratings, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned this week that between 2 million and 4 million of them IsraelAn estimated 9.4 million people will be infected with the variant.

on Monday, Israel 21,514 new cases were reported, another record high. The number of severe cases climbed to 222, a figure still well below the highs seen during previous waves of the coronavirus. Bennett has said preventing serious illness and hospitalization is his main focus.

A surge in testing across the country is another sign of concerns about the variant’s spread. According to the Ministry of Health, testing for the new coronavirus peaked, with more than 342,141 PCR and antigen tests performed on Sunday.It was the second-highest one-day figure after a surge of more than 414,000 in late August, as Israel is launching its booster.

“It’s very difficult to contain a virus that’s spreading four times faster than we’ve ever known,” Sharon Alroy-Pryce, the top public health official at the Ministry of Health, said on Channel 13.

Nearly two-thirds of the public are unhappy with it, a poll shows IsraelChannel 12 TV. 63% of the Israeli public said they thought the government’s handling of the omicron crisis was bad, while 34% said they thought the crisis was well managed. That’s up from August’s 54 percent disapproval rate.

Cabinet members complained at Sunday’s meeting about the incongruity of tightening and loosening requirements – then allowing people to squeeze into stadiums to watch games.

“We’ve been asked for clarification throughout the day,” said Economy and Industry Minister Olna Babiwai. “The public feeling is that the government has acknowledged the fight against the coronavirus.”

That perception is a challenge for the seven-month-old coalition. A fragile start, a group of eight parties that have little in common other than opposition to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

For his part, Bennett has said almost every day that he understands the frustrations of being a parent of four and someone recently quarantined.

He’s tried to calm people down by boasting of being ready for the current wave, giving older Israelis a second round of booster shots and stockpiling hard-to-get medicines to treat those with the virus.

He also promoted a public campaign to increase vaccination rates, even in events such as Israelof the ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities, people have been reluctant to roll up their sleeves.

On Monday, Bennett personally escorted a 9-year-old girl to the vaccination center in the Modine shopping center in the city center. The event was broadcast live on Channel 12 and Bennett wore a microphone throughout the visit.

Bennett stopped by a candy store with the girl and her mother to buy her chocolates. When he paid for the candy, he made sure the women behind the counter were all vaccinated.

“We’re going to get through this together,” he told the girls as they entered the center.

IsraelThe decision to start mandating home antigen testing came in response to long lines at overworked testing centers. However, this has led to a rush to buy test kits at pharmacies, which have struggled to keep shelves stocked.

It also means a surge in business Walter exist Israel, according to Lior Eshkol, one of the two countries in which the company operates Walter exist Israel.

“People want to stay at home, they don’t want to risk being exposed and they don’t want to risk exposing other people,” she said.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

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