The U.K. and Israel are overhauling their COVID-19 testing policies as governments seek to reduce the burden on laboratories and struggle with tight supplies of test kits amid soaring infection rates fueled by the omicron variant.

This time last year, vaccines offered hope that the pandemic might be over by now. But omicron has brought new challenges, including overloading public health systems, even if — as many scientists say — it leads to less severe illness than the earlier delta variant.

Demand for testing kits has squeezed supply. Last week, queues formed outside pharmacies in Spain's capital, Madrid, in what has become a common scene since omicron began driving up infections. Madrid, where a conservative government has put supporting the hospitality sector at the top of its agenda, is opting for increased testing and no restrictions on socializing.