Israel Holds COVID-19 ‘War Game’ to Prepare for Next Outbreak

Israelis express mounting skepticism as government also approves coronavirus vaccine for children aged 5-11

By Ryan Jones | | Topics: Coronavirus, Vaccine
Healthcare workers administer COVID-19 tests in central Israel.
Healthcare workers administer COVID-19 tests in central Israel. Photo: Yossi Aloni/Flash90

You’d think the nation were under nuclear attack. What do Israel’s leaders expect to happen in the next wave of coronavirus infections? That’s anyone’s guess as they were rushed into a secure bunker on Thursday amid a nationwide “war game” in preparation for a future COVID-19 outbreak.

Dubbed “Omega Drill,” the exercise simulated the public being subjected to mass testing and curfews, while Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his cabinet holed up in an underground nuclear blast-proof facility in the Jerusalem hills.

A statement released by Bennett’s office as the drill got underway read: “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.”

Government officials later stressed that they had no information regarding a deadly new strain of COVID-19, and that the drill simulated a hypothetical situation.

Many Israelis weren’t impressed, and urged the prime minister in responses to is social media posts to stop spreading panic.

Israel’s COVID infection rates have been in sharp decline in recent months, and life has largely returned to normal. Which is why Israelis were also puzzled by the government’s seeming urgency in approving vaccines for young children aged 5-11.

While a sizable number of children in that age group have been infected with COVID-19, very few have suffered severe illness. Health Ministry officials acknowledge that under such circumstances it will be an uphill struggle to convince most Israeli parents to jab their young children with a vaccine that has not undergone vigorous clinical trials.

Many were also irked by the fact that Wednesday’s panel discussion on approving the vaccine for that age group was held behind closed doors, despite the government’s promise of greater transparency. Some Israelis expressed to Israel Today that in spite of their overall support for the current government, they have lost trust in the nation’s leaders when it comes to their handling of the coronavirus situation.

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