Israel Orders Emergency Medical Service to Reduce Coronavirus Tests Over Supply Shortage

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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A Magen David employee at a drive-through testing center in East Jerusalem.
A Magen David employee at a drive-through coronavirus testing center in East Jerusalem.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

The Health Ministry has ordered the Magen David Adom emergency medical service to significantly reduce the number of coronovirus tests that it does, due to a bottleneck caused by laboratory shortages of testing chemicals.

No data on the testing have been officially released since Thursday. Last week some 9,000 people a day were tested, but only 5,000 underwent tests on Sunday, with a similar number expected on Monday. 

The ministry schedules and regulates the daily scope of testing based on the ability of the labs to carry them out, and supplies Magen David Adom accordingly with swab kits for drive-through testing stations and for tests conducted in homes. Recently the drive-through stations have been working only part time, as a result of the testing backlog. In addition to the Magen David Adom tests, the labs handle coronavirus tests for hospital patients, which are given priority.

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The Health Ministry said on Sunday that it was “working in cooperation with all those involved – the Acquisitions Administration in the Defense Ministry, the army and the Mossad [intelligence service] – to continue to meet the goal of 10,000 tests a day” and to increase that number over time. It said that over the weekend, it appeared to have resolved the issue of a shortage of testing chemicals to carry out the process.

According to a source at one lab, testing chemicals originating in the United States have been found for coronavirus tests. However, their quantity is limited and they can only be used after an additional step is added to the process.

"There’s a process of validation and adaptation that takes several days to ascertain that all the components of the test work together,” the source said. Accordingly, the number of tests cannot yet be increased and therefore the output has been low, with priority given to those coronavirus patients who have been hospitalized.

At the same time, Magen David Adom is expanding its drive-through centers and has prepared infrastructure to make it possible to perform tens of thousands of tests a day. Permanent drive-throughfacilities now existin Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Be’er Sheva.

There are also mobile stations, which were operating on Sunday and Monday in Rahat, Bnei Brak, Modi'in, Elad, Nof Hagalil and East Jerusalem, and on Sunday in Arabeh, as well. In Bnei Brak and Elad the medical service offered a special service for citizens who do not have cars, and picked them up by ambulance to drive them to the testing center.

A drive-through coronavirus testing center in the Bedouin town of Rahat.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

On Tuesday, additional Magen David Adom and Health Ministry mobile sites will be established in Sha’ar Binyamin, Betar Ilit, Daliat al-Carmel and Isfiya.

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