November 29, 2022

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Health Ministry Permits Use of Antigen Tests for Exiting Quarantine

3 min read

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry updated its guidelines for allowing recovered or vaccinated people in quarantine because of exposure to coronavirus to be able to leave after getting a negative antigen test. This move is an additional step after Israel chose to ease quarantine restrictions on Tuesday because it wants to avoid putting hundreds of thousands of people in isolation, with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreading rapidly. Up until now, only PCR tests had been considered eligible for putting an end to the quarantine. According to the new guidelines, it is now possible to use a rapid antigen test, but not a home test. A PCR test will be needed if the antigen test comes back positive. 

The ministry said that the state would bear the cost of the antigen tests for anyone who is exposed to a positive case. However, only those who are fully vaccinated will have to comply with the new guideline. This means that either they should have received their second dose in the last six months, or gotten a booster shot. As far as the unvaccinated is concerned, they will be required to take a PCR test. If anyone tests positive with an antigen test, they would have to take a PCR test. If that comes back negative, they will be able to leave quarantine.

In case it comes back positive, they would be required to self-isolate for about 10 days until they recover and would need to get authorization from a doctor. The ministry further added that those who are not vaccinated will be required to quarantine for 14 days and would have the option of shortening the period if they do a PCR test one day & and it comes back negative. The announcement about the changes in the quarantine regulations for people exposed to a COVID-19 patient was made by the premier Naftali Bennett on Tuesday. 

This was done in light of concerns that an increasingly high number of people would be required to quarantine in light of the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. As per the new guidelines, those who are fully vaccinated will only have to quarantine until they get a negative PCR result if they are exposed to someone with the coronavirus. Once they are released, they will not be permitted to enter areas with high-risk populations, such as nursing homes, or mass events, for the next 10 days. Before then, fully vaccinated Israelis hadn’t been required to quarantine after exposure unless the Omicron variant was suspected.

Bennett presented the new rules and said that Israel would have ended up in ‘de facto lockdown’ if the change wasn’t made. He also claimed that they had bought about five weeks of breathing room by curtailing travel and keeping foreign nationals out of the country and Israelis in it. He added that this would help in keeping the economy humming. He stated that this had given Israel an advantage over other countries that were fighting the Delta and Omicron variant at the same time and avoid a lockdown like the Netherlands. 

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