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Israel on Thursday began a nationwide drill to test its readiness in the event of an outbreak of a new, more lethal Covid-19 variant. The 'Omega Drill', deemed as the world's first such exercise, will be led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

The exercise, war-gamed over three sessions to simulate the passage of time after a potential flare-up, will test the resilience of systems that determine lockdown policies, monitor variants, offer economic support for citizens, enforce quarantines and watch border crossings. 

"The State of Israel is in an excellent situation. We beat the fourth wave and we are on our way toward exiting the Delta variant. However, at the same time, we are always looking ahead and preparing for the continuation of the campaign, " Bennet said in a statement, adding, "We are not 'closing up shop'. Neither are we closing down the management systems and the order of battle against the virus."

"On the contrary, we are continuing to hold drills and to challenge ourselves. While the situation of coronavirus in the world is deteriorating, Israel is safe and protected. In order to maintain this, and to safeguard the continuity of normal life, we must continue to closely monitor the situation and prepare for any scenario," he further stated.

The drill will be conducted in the format of a war-game and will consist of a senior-level, inter-organizational simulation that tests the national management of a new strain, the 'Omega' strain, that has yet to be discovered in the State of Israel.

The drill will deal with several aspects and will test the professional systems in extreme situations over the stages of the exercise:

• Policy aspects: Restricting gatherings, restricting movement, quarantine policy, event plans (holidays, etc.), selected or nationwide lockdowns/curfews and tourism.

• Health aspects: Monitoring, follow-up, oversight and warnings during the development of a new and dangerous variant, continuity, testing the protection provided by vaccines, epidemiological investigations, tests, hospital capacity, designated procurement, the carrying out of mass-testing, vaccines (booster doses, other vaccines, etc.)

• Legal aspects: Local or regional lockdowns/curfews, restrictions policy, approval of designated regulations

• Economic aspects: Assisting the national effort, economic support for the population

• Public security aspects: Enforcement of quarantines, local lockdowns/curfews, enforcement of regulations

• The education system: Safeguarding the health of pupils, reducing the size of classes, closing schools in outbreak centers, changing education plans (capsules, remote learning)

• Ben-Gurion International Airport and the border crossings: Departure and arrival policy, control, selective closings.

• Public diplomacy and media: Informing the public and increasing transparency, responding to discourse on the internet, simulating the National Public Diplomacy Directorate

The number of seriously ill Israelis suffering from Covid-19 dropped from around 700 at the end of August to 149 on Nov. 10, while the number of daily new infections fell from around 10,000 a day to just under 500. 

Israel opened its doors to fully vaccinated tourists this month even as experts called for the implementation of tougher safeguards. It’s also preparing to vaccinate 5- to 11-year-olds against Covid-19. 


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