Rapid antigen tests proven inaccurate and will soon be used by most Israelis

Despite proven accuracy issues with antigen tests, starting Friday, only those over age 60 or at high risk can receive accurate PCR tests.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The quick antigen tests that the government says people should take if they feel ill or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 miss positive cases about half the time according to Health Ministry data revealed on Channel 13 Wednesday.

The overall number gets worse when broken down. For adults (age 18 and up), the tests wrongly indicate a negative result for the coronavirus in 61% of the cases. Among the unvaccinated population, a whopping 72% came back with a false negative, as proven when a subsequent PCR test found them to be carrying the virus.

Nevertheless, starting Friday, the new government policy will be that only those over age 60 or at high risk can receive the accurate PCR tests if they have symptoms or were exposed. Statistically speaking, this will mean that there will be many more people who are ill or carriers but do not know it going to work, to the mall or to school and spreading the disease.

The number of COVID-19 cases has already been rising very quickly. Just over 16,000 new cases were diagnosed Wednesday, a jump of almost 4,000 from the day before. On Monday, when 10,720 newly ill were recorded, Prime Minister Bennett warned that the country could see over 50,000 new COVID-19 cases daily at the peak of the current Omicron wave.

A very high 7.89% of those tested Wednesday were positive for the disease, and the R coefficient, representing the average number of people each carrier infects, rose to 1.9.

Although in general the Omicron variant is much less virulent than previous variants, the numbers of those seriously ill is slowly rising, with 134 currently in critical condition. Due to fears that the medical system could soon be overwhelmed, the health ministry decided Wednesday that vital health workers will be allowed to do their hospital jobs even if they are not vaccinated or do not hold valid green passes.

The new rules going into effect state that those who have symptoms or were exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 carrier and are unvaccinated will have to go to supervised site for an antigen test. Those who are vaccinated are to take a home rapid test. These are considered even less accurate than the antigen tests given at health funds, MDA stations and other official sites that the Health Ministry has just shown to give false results a majority of the time.

Yet if the home test shows a negative result, the people can go on with their regular lives. If the result is positive for COVID-19, people should go to a medical facility for another quick antigen check. If that test is negative, those who have been vaccinated or recovered within the last half year are released unconditionally as well.

Only those who are unvaccinated, or had their last shot or were ill more than six months ago, will be required to enter isolation for seven days anyway, and undergo a PCR test before leaving quarantine.

If the “official” antigen test is positive, everyone will have to isolate themselves for ten days. At the end of that time, they only need a doctor’s permission to return to their normal routine; no further test is required.