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Israel Defeats New Variant in National COVID-19 ‘War Games’

If you haven’t heard of the Omega strain of the coronavirus then you are not alone. That’s because it does not yet exist. But it was the name of the fictitious strain that Israel battled on Thursday during a national COVID-19 war game drill to prepare for a future variant of the deadly virus.

“We are holding a war game drill for a strain of a new variant that does not yet exist but which we are preparing for,” Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the start of the drill from a war room in Jerusalem. We took Israel out of the Delta wave, without even one day of lockdown. Not only is this an important achievement in and of itself but it is also important because it shows that it is possible to do things differently. We have proven that with proper management, it is possible to beat the pandemic.”

Bennett warned that the world is still gripped by the pandemic. “The most threatening thing is not even the current situation but what we do not yet know. Just like the Delta strain broke out violently, other, even more deadly and more infectious strains could come, which could bypass the vaccine,” he said.

Thursday’s coronavirus war games were, according to Bennett, a way to “prepare for any scenario.” The drill helped to “check that all government ministries are ready, that hospitals know how to deal with extreme scenarios and that the scientists are carefully monitoring every variant that appears in the world while it is still small.”

Among the participants in the drill were government ministry director generals, representatives of the professional agencies, the national coronavirus project manager, the director of the Public Health Service, the chairperson of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, and representatives of the National Security Council and the Israel Defense Forces, including Home Front Command.

Israel currently is seeing under 500 new cases of the coronavirus each day and about three deaths per day.

The new variant drill came a day after the government’s Pandemic Response Team and the Advisory Committee on Vaccines approved vaccinating children ages 5-11 with a 10 mg dose (instead of a 30 mg. dose) of the Pfizer vaccine. The approval comes in the wake of the approval of the US Food and Drug Administration and the start of a vaccine campaign for children in the United States. The Health Ministry will kick off a vaccination campaign for children after Israel receives the kid-sized doses from the company.

About half of all new cases of the coronavirus in Israel occur in children ages 12 and under.

Bennett on Thursday from the coronavirus war room called on parents to be willing to vaccinate their children.

“There is no reason to leave our children defenseless. There is no reason why a child should infect, and be infected by, others and, under certain conditions, also deal with the side effects of long covid, a series of difficult phenomena, when their entire lives are yet before them. Therefore, I call on parents – vaccinate your children. Safeguard them. Give them the same layer of protection that you have,” he said.


Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of 6 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0) on Thursday.



Confirmed CasesDeathsRecoveredActive Cases
Palestinian Territories426,0514,469417,9253,657
Saudi Arabia549,0608,807538,0492,204
United Arab Emirates740,6472,142735,1733,332


Ben Zabelshansky contributed to this report.