Inside Israel’s makeshift COVID bunker

This is Israel’s nuclear command bunker… built more than a decade ago out of concern over Iran's nuclear program and missile exchanges with Lebanon and Gaza.

But on this day - it’s being used by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and top aides as a pseudo pandemic command center to simulate a turn for the worse in the fight against COVID.

Thursday’s drill simulates an outbreak of a vaccine-resistant COVID-19 variant to which children are vulnerable, describing such an eventuality as "the next war."

Bennett spoke to Reuters from the facility in the Jerusalem hills about the drill.

"Well the first lesson we are learning in the midst national pandemic exercise is that we have to prepare for the next war and not the previous war."

To enhance the challenge of the one-day exercise, Bennett had been kept unaware of specific scenarios The script sees a fictitious strain, "Omega", bypassing the vaccines which Israel rolled out at record pace this year. Omega also sickens children - largely spared by the actual virus - prompting mass hospitalizations and school closures.

As part of the simulation, Bennett said he had ordered Israeli children - including his own four - confined to their homes while the government sealed off the borders and conferred with the Palestinian Authority, Gaza officials and Jordan.

"Unlike a war-wargame, a pandemic wargame is not secret. Quite the contrary, we want to share the information.”

For the prime minister, if there’s one takeaway, it’s this.

"The main lesson is: Move fast, move hard."

Bennett said Israel will brief foreign leaders next week on the findings of the drill.

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