Israel Launches Pilot for Saliva PCR Tests, With 45-minute Results

The two-week pilot in Tel Aviv will determine whether Israel switches over to the less intrusive method of testing for COVID

בדיקות קורונה בגני יהושע, בחודש שעבר
A child getting a COVID test, last monthCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

The Health Ministry announced on Thursday that it has begun a pilot scheme for PCR tests using saliva instead of a swab sample.

The results of the test will take 45 minutes, in contrast to standard issue Health Ministry PCR tests based on a swab sample, which take up to 24 hours. The test, too, is considered less intrusive than the swab test, which is especially important in light of the mass testing campaign introduced in Israel's schools.

The test, developed by Professor Amos Danieli from the Faculty of Engineering from Bar-Ilan University, kicked off in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square this week. It will be carried out in cooperation with the Health and Defense Ministries.

New COVID cases over the past month.Credit: Health Ministry
Serious COVID cases over the past month.Credit: Health Ministry

The two-week pilot scheme will involve participants of different ages receiving both a swab and saliva test, which will then be compared according to three criteria: comfort, safety and the validity of the results. After gathering a sample of several hundred participants, a decision will be made whether the tests will be used on a permanent basis.

On Wednesday, meanwhile, the overall number of coronavirus patients in a serious condition continued to drop, with 475 seriously ill patients in Israel in total. Of this figure, 235 are in critical condition and 200 on ventilators. The number of seriously ill patients has fallen dramatically over the last week, with the number of serious cases as high as 668 at the end of September.

Of the 41 new seriously ill patients on Wednesday, 70 percent were unvaccinated. Unvaccinated Israelis account for about 15 percent of the population.

The R number, which represents the average number of people that each infected person will go on to infect, remained at 0.78. If the figure is under 1, it means the pandemic is waning.

The government also lifted some of the country's coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, amid signs that the latest wave of infections is on a steady decline.

The Green Pass – Israel's proof of vaccination – will no longer be required at outdoor attractions. In addition, entering libraries and visiting museums will be allowed without the Green Pass. Starting October 11, the Green Pass will no longer be required at outdoor eateries and indoor swimming pools.

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