Corona infections in Israel pass 8,000 as test supplies run low

Death toll now 47 as shortage of critical chemicals reduces number of tests for coronavirus. 

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The number of Israelis infected by the coronavirus continued its rise Sunday as the health ministry admitted a shortage of critical reagent chemicals was forcing a cutback in the number of tests being performed.

As of Sunday morning, 8,018 people are confirmed as having the disease, the health ministry reported. Of those, 739 people have been hospitalized with 127 of them in serious condition. There was a small piece of good news in that the number of patients on respirators dropped from 108 on Saturday to 106 on Sunday.

Five more Israelis succumbed to the virus, bringing the death toll to 47.

Chemical reagents required to perform the test for coronavirus are in short supply and the number of tests were being cut back.

Despite a previously announced goal of ramping up to 30,000 tests a day, the chemical shortage has resulted in a drop of the number of people being checked for coronavirus.

“A solution has been found for the chemicals, and during the night there will be an operation in collaboration with the Army and the Mossad, ” Prof. Itamar Grotto, health ministry deputy director-general, told Kan News. The chemicals would be produced by an Israeli factory, and “starting tomorrow ,we will be able to return to a routine of performing ten thousand tests a day.”

Earlier, Ministry Spokesman Eyal Basson said that despite authorizing local production of the chemicals, the goal of adding over 10,000 more tests a day would only be “starting in about two weeks.”

The shortage forced the health ministry on Friday to tighten the requirements for a coronavirus test whereby having some symptoms of the virus was not enough to qualify for testing.

Temporary rule changes required a patient to have a fever higher than 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit) coupled with a cough, difficulty breathing, or other respiratory symptoms. They will also need to show they have been at least 15 minutes near a virus carrier or returned to Israel from abroad or from Judea and Samaria in the previous two weeks, Times of Israel reported.

Police remained deployed Sunday in the predominantly ultra-orthodox city of Bnei Brak, which was put under curfew at the start of the weekend. While police officers ensured nobody entered or exited without authorization and kept people off the streets, the army on Sunday started going door to door distributing food.

An operation to evacuate thousands of senior citizens was called off after only 15 percent of elderly residents agreed to leave, Kan Radio reported. It is feared one in three Bnei Brak residents might be infected, and authorities had hoped to move many elderly, who are most endangered by the virus, to hotels converted into isolation centers.

Interior Minister Gilad Erdan said a decision would be reached later in the day on declaring more cities  as “restricted areas” due to their high infection rates, Ynet reported. That might include several religious neighborhoods in the capital city Jerusalem, which leads the country with the most number of infected people.

Health ministry statistics indicated that some of Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox neighborhoods have a higher rate than Bnei Brak.