(May 6, 2020 / JNS) A top Israeli health official said on Tuesday that the government is about to launch a campaign to test the population for coronavirus antibodies.
Israeli Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov told The New York Times that 100,000 Israelis across the country will begin undergoing serological testing in one to two weeks to gauge the extent of the spread of the virus thus far and prepare for a possible second wave. His interview came in the wake of an easing in Israel of many restrictions imposed on the public since the outbreak of the pandemic.
“This is the most important mission: Get ready for the next wave, especially a wave during wintertime,” he said. “Luckily, the COVID-19 caught us post-influenza season. But we can’t assume that there’s not going to be a next wave or that it will be during summertime.”
“We want to know the truth” about whether the country is developing “herd immunity,” and therefore will be less vulnerable in the event of additional outbreaks, said Bar Siman Tov.
If the tests reveal that too small a percentage of the population has antibodies, he said, the health system could be overwhelmed by a second wave.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday touted Israel’s “major success” in confronting the coronavirus pandemic, and laid out the government’s plan for a phased reopening of the economy following weeks of lockdowns during which borders and most businesses were closed, schools were shuttered, and strict quarantine and social-distancing rules were enforced.
As of Wednesday morning, Israel’s COVID-19 death toll stood at 238 with 5,549 active coronavirus cases.
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