During an unprecedented drill for the coronavirus on Thursday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett found himself holed up in a bunker. While in the nuclear-safe bunker, the premier called on parents of children between the ages of 5 and 11 to vaccinate their children, as the country is expanding its vaccination campaign to also include these young kids. Bennett said that there wasn’t any reason to leave the children unprotected. The drill is part of simulation testing preparations nationwide for a potential hypothetical breakout of a lethal and new variant of COVID-19. This drill was named ‘Omega’ for a fictitious variant of COVID-19 and there hasn’t been a drill like this one conducted anywhere around the globe so far.
The premier said that there wasn’t any reason for children to get infected and then infect others as well, with their whole lives ahead of them. He told parents to safeguard their kids and vaccinate them in order to give them some protection. The approval for expanding the vaccination drive in Israel had been given by the Health Ministry on Wednesday evening, after the United States had done the same a few days earlier. However, later in the day, Nachman Ash, the Director-General of the Health Ministry noted that the first shipment of the kid-size doses of the Pfizer vaccine has not yet arrived in the country.
Ash said that the shipment was expected in the next few days, but could also take up to as long as two weeks. Ash also added that they were not going to put pressure on parents to vaccinate their kids. He also disclosed that they were still planning to keep COVID-19 tests free for children under the age of 12, as opposed to tests of those above the age of 12 who haven’t gotten vaccinated. Bennett said during the simulation that just like the Delta variant had arrived unexpectedly, other deadlier variants could also come and could bypass the vaccine as well.
A wide range of scenarios were simulated by participating officials and they coordinated on how they would change quarantine requirements, movement restrictions and the operation of airports and schools. Bennett said that it was a good thing to hope for the best, but people still need to be ready for any scenario and to ensure that all government ministries are prepared as well. He added that hospitals needed to be able to deal with extreme scenarios and also disclosed that new variants were being monitored by scientists all over the world while they are still small in number.
Moshe Edri, the Defense Ministry Director of Civil Defense, ran the drill and ministry heads of different government offices also participated in it. Along with them, there were also representatives from the National Security Council, the Home Front Command of the Israel Defense Forces and the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee of the Knesset. Overall, Israel is currently at the end of the fourth wave of COVID-19, as serious infections and new cases are declining rapidly.