Vaccinated or recovered individuals who were exposed to COVID –without distinction between variants – will be able to take a rapid antigen test to be exempt from quarantine, the Health Ministry said Wednesday.
Until now, vaccinated people and recovering patients exposed to a COVID carrier have been required to take a PCR test and stay in quarantine for 24 hours, or until receiving a negative result.
Those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from the virus and have tested positive in an antigen test will be required to undergo a PCR test. If they also test positive in the PCR test, they would have to quarantine for ten days – as long as they do not show symptoms during the last three days of quarantine.
The policy, which will take effect at midnight on Wednesday, shortens quarantine time for those infected with the omicron variant who have until now been made to enter a 14-day quarantine.
Under the new plan, antigen tests performed at a medical facility will be paid for by the state. Previously, patients were made to pay for the antigen tests taken at a medical facility.
The decision to discontinue distinguishing between variants was made following data showing that the omicron variant is set to become dominant in Israel within a few days. According to estimates, 90 percent of new cases will be omicron infections in less than two weeks.
It was decided to end the 14-day quarantine for those exposed to an omicron carrier because of the significant economic hit caused by quarantines, and because there has not been a spike in people hospitalized with the virus.
The Health Ministry policy for the unvaccinated has not changed. Accordingly, unvaccinated people will still need to undergo a PCR test in case of exposure to a verified coronavirus carrier, and remain in isolation until they receive a negative result. If they receive a positive result, they will also have to go into ten-day isolation regardless of the variant, and will be released if they are symptom-free during the last three days.
Following a negative result, they will be obligated to enter quarantine 14 days from the last contact with the known carrier, with the option of shortening their quarantine by receiving a negative PCR test on the seventh day.
- Omicron to Soon Render Israel's Travel Restrictions Useless, Experts Say
- Israel to Lift COVID Travel Restrictions on Most Countries, but Not U.S., U.K., SA
- First Omicron Case Detected in Gaza
The Health Ministry recommended that vaccinated and recovering people avoid crowded places during the seven days following exposure, and refrain from contact with high-risk populations. The recommendation will not be practically enforced.
According to the Health Ministry, 3,227 people were diagnosed with COVID, with positive results constituting 2.5 percent of those tested. 89 people are now hospitalized, of whom 44 are in critical condition and 37 are on ventilators.