As the coronavirus spreads throughout Israel, the Magen David Adom ambulance service is setting up drive-in testing stations to increase the number of tests for the virus in the country. In the coming days, six stations will operate in public areas, where people can come to be tested without getting out of their cars. The first such station will begin operating tomorrow in Tel Aviv, to be followed by stations in Haifa, Jerusalem, Petah Tikva, Rishon Lezion, and Beersheva. The new facilities will operate 24 hours a day.
In the luna park fairground opposite Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv, the Ministry of Health and Magen David Adom have begun assembling a drive-in testing station, a type of testing station that has proven successful in South Korea. In this method, people being tested stay in the cars, without coming into contact with anyone other than the people administering the tests. The testing staff member puts the test swab - a stick with cotton on the end, like a long cotton swab - in through the window. The secretions are then collected on the swab from the nose of the person being tested, and the patient drives away.
The process will probably be more difficult at first, because the identity of the person being tested and his or her right to a test must be verified according to the Ministry of Health's rules. This method, however, makes it possible to test many people, with the car serving as an isolation room. Teams from Magen David Adom, police, and security guards to maintain public order will be stationed in each area. Patients unable to come to the station without buses or trains will be able to take their samples at home, as has been the case hitherto.
Those approved by a doctor for having a sample taken will receive an SMS with the details, and will be asked to go to the station at a specific time. As part of the sampling process, the person being tested will go to the station by car, be identified, and have their particulars verified on the spot, after which a Magen David Adom paramedic wearing full protective gear against infection will take the sample. The person being tested will stay in their car during the entire process, and will then drive straight home.
Each drive-in testing station will carry out 1,000 tests a day, and Magen David Adom staff will also continue administering tests according to previous procedures. The stations can test a large number of people quickly, which will increase the daily testing capacity in Israel to 7,000. Not everyone who wants to be tested will be allowed to do so. Testing at the stations will be restricted to people with symptoms who are capable to reaching the stations by themselves without jeopardizing those around them, subject to referral by medical teams only.
The Ministry of Health and Magen David Adom are currently putting great efforts into increasing the number of tests, out of concern that thousands of people in Israel are unaware that they have the coronavirus, or may suspect that they have it, but have not had this verified by testing.
A number of people recently reported that they contacted Magen David Adom and said that they had symptoms typical of the coronavirus, but had received no response because of the priority given to testing patients returning from overseas, or who were in contact with a verified patient. This is probably the reason that not many cases of coronavirus from unknown sources have been discovered.
Up until last week, most of the tests were conducted at Magen David Adom's central laboratory at the Sheba Medical Center, under Ministry of Health supervision, while three other laboratories are operating on a smaller scale. Last week, the coronavirus was detected in one of the workers at the main laboratory, and her entire team was put into isolation, together with another team that came from Rabin Medical Center for training in the testing process.
Last week, however, the Ministry of Health began authorizing additional hospital laboratories to perform tests. Additional testing sites were opened, and existing uninfected sites were expanded. The Ministry of Health's goal is to first expand daily testing capacity from hundreds to thousands, with 1,000 tests already being conducted yesterday, while the drive-in stations is being established at the same time.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 17, 2020
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