Health Ministry Says Mossad Bought Wrong Testing Kits for Coronavirus

'Unfortunately what we just received is not exactly what we needed,' ministry deputy director general says

A Magen David Adom paramedic hold a testing kit for coronavirus, March 17, 2020.
Ohad Zwigenberg

Israel's Health Ministry said Thursday that the Mossad had purchased the wrong test kits for the novel coronavirus, as Israel continues grappling with containing the highly contagious pandemic.  

In an interview with Israeli website Ynetnews, Health Ministry Deputy Director General Prof. Itamar Grotto said that “Unfortunately what we just received is not exactly what we needed."

Grotto added that “The test is comprised of many components and the main problem is that we are missing swabs.”

The Mossad said in response that “We will ascertain the Health Ministry's specific needs."

Later on Thursday however, Health Ministry Director General said in a statement that "We've received this morning valuable and useable testing kits for the coronavirus. We would like to express our special gratitude to the Mossad and to its chief Yossi Cohen, who is assisting us. In addition, the Prime Minister's Office said that the medical equipment that arrived in Israel is necessary and essential [for running tests]."  

The extent of the shortage of swabs is unclear, but it is currently preventing the Health Ministry from running a greater number of tests per day. According to sources in the Health Ministry, shortage of swabs is the reason for the delay in opening the 'drive-through' testing stations set up by Magen David Adom paramedics, which are supposed to handle about 10,000 tests a day.

”There is a worldwide shortage of swabs which also affects Israel,” one source told Haaretz. “A new shipment of swabs is expected to be delivered today and meanwhile Israel is looking into alternative solutions as well.”

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Prof. Sigal Sadetsky, head of public health services in the Health Ministry, said that the ministry is "exhausting all options to obtain more swabs and is looking into how to use other types of swabs,” adding that “Since yesterday I’ve gotten more optimistic about our chances of obtaining them.”

Magen David Adom has set its first “drive through” station in Tel Aviv, which was supposed to open on Wednesday, as one of the six planned stations also envisaged for Haifa, Jerusalem, Petah Tikva, Rishon Letzion and Be’er Sheva.

The stations are slated to operate around the clock and will be manned by Magen David Adom paramedics, Israel Police Officers and security guards.

Those with a physician approval for being tested for coronavirus will receive a text message informing them about the specific station where they can be tested. Those unable to get to the special stations without resorting to public transportation will be allowed to test themselves at home.