Israel successfully completes COVID-19 ‘war game’

The “Omega Exercise,” as it was called by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, was meant to prepare for a hypothetical, new COVID-19 variant.

Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is seen following the completion of the COVID-19 'war games' exercise. (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is seen following the completion of the COVID-19 'war games' exercise.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

Dozens of top officials took part in what Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called a COVID-19 war exercise on Thursday to gauge the country’s preparedness for the next wave of the pandemic.

“We are starting an unprecedented event here,” the prime minister said at the start of the exercise – “not only on an Israeli scale but on a global level. We are conducting a war exercise to prepare for a new variant that does not even exist yet.”

The “Omega Exercise,” as Bennett called it, was held in the format of a “war game,” the Prime Minister’s Office said. Bennett has regularly referred to the “Omega strain,” the next harmful COVID-19 variant that has not yet been discovered. A war game is a game of the mind; no physical exercises took place.

Bennett said that Israel has surfaced from the Delta wave without locking down, proving that “with proper management, the pandemic can be defeated.”

Israel has only around 500 new cases per day, after averaging several thousand new cases per day only two months ago. The country ran a mass booster-shot campaign, inoculating more than four million Israelis while maintaining open schools and an open economy. 

Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other top officials are seen following the completion of the COVID-19 'war games' exercise. (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other top officials are seen following the completion of the COVID-19 'war games' exercise. (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

Under the previous administration, Israel locked down three times.

Bennett acknowledged that the pandemic has not yet disappeared, noting how in countries, like several in Europe, there are a record number of daily cases

“The most threatening thing is not the current situation, but what we do not know yet,” he said. “Just as the Delta strain suddenly and violently erupted, other, more deadly and more contagious, vaccine-resistant variants could arrive.”

He said that the exercise was meant to be a proactive attempt to prepare for such a scenario. The event was meant to check that all the ministries are ready for the next wave, that the hospitals can manage under extreme circumstances, and that the country’s top scientists are closely following every variant that has emerged in the world – no matter how small.

The team evaluated the preparedness of the country in the health, legal, economic, internal security, travel and communication realms, including looking at specific policies for how to handle gatherings, quarantine, events, tourism and more.

Representatives from senior-level officials and teams from across ministries and sectors took part in the exercise. It was held at the National Management Center in Jerusalem.

A spokesperson for the prime minister said assessment of the results of the war game would proceed immediately and continue over the next week or so to determine the next steps for managing the pandemic in Israel.