What are the rapid coronavirus tests?
The new rapid antigen tests provide results within about 15 to 30 minutes and spare the need to send swab samples to an off-site laboratory. They are expected to complement other COVID testing done in the country by providing a readily available way of testing people entering public spaces or events where the Green Pass applies. This includes indoor venues where more than 100 people are present.
In the absence of rapid testing at such venues, members of the public would be required to show proof of vaccination, recovery from the coronavirus or a negative PCR test for the coronavirus taken no more than 72 hours before the event.
How reliable are the rapid tests?
The rapid tests are considered less sensitive than the PCR swab test but still sufficiently reliable to satisfy the Israeli Health Ministry to permit its use at venues where the Green Pass applies. Results from a rapid test are considered valid for 24 hours.
Reliability is measured based on a test’s sensitivity and specificity, a measure of false negative results and false positive results. Sensitivity refers to the capacity to correctly identify an infected patient. Specificity is expressed as the percentage of patients who are not infected and for whom the test correctly provides a negative result.
Israeli Health Ministry data indicate that the Sofia rapid test is 85 to 96.7 percent accurate with regard to sensitivity (correctly identifying infected patients) and 100 percent reliable with regard to specificity (identifying those who are not infected). So far, five companies’ rapid tests have been approved for use in Israel.
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Where can the rapid tests be performed?
In Israel, there are six companies that have been approved by the Health Ministry to do rapid testing. The actual sampling is done by 45 separate entities around the country and is to be expanded to include sites operated by the Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command. Many public venues operating in accordance with Green Pass restrictions will be providing rapid testing on site.
How is the test performed?
In Israel the testing is done using a swab as with PCR tests.
Does the rapid test have the same status as PCR testing?
No. Rapid tests are valid for only 24 hours and at this point limited to use at public venues only.
Are they valid for travel abroad?
Not at this stage, because when traveling abroad, the test must meet standards set by the government at the travel destination.
How are those who test positive with a rapid test to conduct themselves?
They must immediately go into isolation and then undergo a regular PCR COVID test within 48 hours of the rapid test. If the PCR test comes back negative, they are free to leave isolation.
Who pays for the cost of the rapid tests?
Each individual must pay. In the future, it’s possible that the Health Ministry will cover the cost of rapid testing of children under the age of 12 (who are generally still ineligible to be vaccinated), but no final decision has been made.
Are children under 12 required to be tested to enter Green Pass venues?
Yes. They are required to take either a rapid test or a PCR test.
How much does the rapid test cost?
It costs 69 shekels ($21), but the price is expected to drop due to competition among various providers in Israel.
What about home testing kits?
In addition to rapid testing, pharmacies in Israel have begun selling home testing kits for COVID. While the kits have been approved by the Health Ministry for home use, they are not accepted for use by government authorities as proof of a positive or negative result. The home test kits have a relatively high level of accuracy but may not detect infection in patients with a low viral load.