Israel to Locally Produce Compound for Coronavirus Screening, After Drop in Testing Rate

Local production comes as South Korea and Germany suspend exports, causing a shortage as officials hope to reach 10,000 tests a day in two weeks

Sagi Cohen
Sagi Cohen
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A drive-through coronavirus testing station, March 30, 2020.
A drive-through coronavirus testing station, March 30, 2020.Credit: Rami Shllush
Sagi Cohen
Sagi Cohen

Prof. Itamar Grotto, deputy director general at the Health Ministry, said on Sunday that Israel would begin locally producing the reagents needed to conduct coronavirus tests in order to increase the number of tests it can administer.

Grotto announced the news at a session of the special Knesset committee on the epidemic, chaired by Ofer Shelach of Yesh Atid, after it emerged over the weekend that the number of tests had fallen sharply because of a shortage of the reagents, a necessary chemical for the analysis of tests.

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Haredi leaders learn harsh corona lesson as Israel sends in the troopsCredit: Haaretz

Sources told Haaretz said facilities in South Korea and Germany that produce them had stopped supplying Israel. As a result, it seems that the target of 30,000 tests a day in a week’s time set by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be met.

“You have to understand that there’s a global arms race in testing,” Grotto said. “At the moment, the bottleneck is reagents. We’re working to adapt local industries to produce them and we’re in the final stage of trials. If everything goes well, we can begin production tomorrow [Monday]. We have to rely on ourselves.”

He said that Israel also planned to bring in a Chinese company to set up testing labs, each of which can handle 10,000 tests a day and will help the government to reach its 30,000 target.

Grotto said that as of Sunday, Israel had completed 103,703 tests for the coronavirus, making the country among the top 10 in the world for most number of tests per capita. Over the previous two days, Israel administered an average of 7,000 tests a day and officials hope to reach a rate of 10,000 in two weeks’ time.

Prof. Zeev Rothstein, CEO of the Hadassah Medical Organization, said he believed the Health Ministry’s figures to be inaccurate. But Grotto countered that his data were better than anything Rothstein had.

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