Israel's COVID Czar Admits Negative Tests Counted Twice at Airport

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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Israel's newly appointed director-general of the Health Ministry, Prof. Nachman Ash in the knesset, last year.
Israel's newly appointed director-general of the Health Ministry, Prof. Nachman Ash in the knesset, last year.Credit: אמיל סלמן
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Israel's coronavirus czar Nachman Ash admitted Monday that the coronavirus data released by the Health Ministry in recent weeks was incorrect, and added that the number of negative COVID-19 tests conducted at Ben-Gurion International Airport had been mistakenly counted twice.

Ash said that the Health Ministry intends to correct the data in the upcoming weeks, and stressed that "the rate of positive COVID tests isn’t surging. There has been a gradual increase in recent days."

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The Health Ministry is seeking to curb coronavirus infections without implementing harsh measures, Ash said, adding that the Health Ministry will not propose new restrictions. Ash, who this week also assumed the role of Health Ministry director general, said that the ministry will soon discuss a pandemic plan for the fall Jewish holidays.

Also on Monday, the Health Ministry ordered the country's four health maintenance organizations to offer a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine to patients with impaired immune systems. People suffering from autoimmune diseases, organ transplant recipients and cancer patients will now be offered a booster shot, since these conditions suppress the immune system and reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine.

At the same time, however, vaccinating the Israeli population at large with a third dose is not under consideration at this stage.

On Monday, the Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said that new COVID-19 measures should help Israel bolster the supervision and protection of arriving passengers. "We've doubled the number of testing sites [at the airport], eliminating the long queues," Horowitz said, speaking during a visit to Ben-Gurion Airport. 

On Sunday, the panel of experts on epidemics that is advising the Health Ministry recommended vaccinating children under the age of 12 who suffer serious preexisting conditions or who are living with a household member at increased risk of serious illness from the coronavirus.

The recommendation was based on data provided by Pfizer that has not been officially released. In case a decision to inoculate the children is made, each case will require an approval by the Health Ministry.

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