Israel offers free no-referral corona tests

Coronavirus ‘czar’ wants to test Israel’s entire 9.2 million population.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Coronavirus tests centers around Israel began performing free tests Wednesday after the government decided to test as many people as possible to get a better picture of the state of the pandemic.

“Everything will be open and available, and test results will also be available within hours,” the national coronavirus task force coordinator Prof. Ronni Gamzu said during a Health Ministry briefing on Tuesday after Israel this week began easing the national lockdown that was imposed last month.

“I want the entire state of Israel to have less than 5% positive test results, therefore we need more testing,” said Gamzu, who serves as the nation’s “coronavirus czar.”

Under the new directive, any Israeli can get tested whether or not they have symptoms and without a referral from a physician, needing only to have their identity card in order to be checked if they are currently carrying the virus.

“I want each person to get tested, especially people who have the slightest suspicion of being asymptomatic patients. In my opinion, as many people as possible should get tested, there are enough test kits. I do not fear labs would collapse under the pressure. The HMOs are working and know the exact workload expected on the laboratories. There may be some hiccups here and there, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay,” Gamzu said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday again called for public support “because together we will succeed” and noted that while Israel’s numbers were trending down the cases in Europe were going up.

“Israel was ranked first in morbidity per capita in [comparison with] Europe. We imposed a lockdown and we came down quickly. The other countries of Europe that did not impose lockdowns and did not impose tough restrictions – went up quickly. Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands – all these countries now have higher morbidity than ours, other than Germany, which is also going up,” Netanyahu said before a meeting of the corona cabinet, a group of ministers directly involved in battling the pandemic issues.

However, Netanyahu also continued to show the government flip-flopping on the decision-making process that has frustrated much of the public, saying that easing of restrictions will be done gradually, but not according to the four-month long multi-stage plan that was announced last week.

“There will not be nine stages, there will be fewer, but they will be gradual,” Netanyahu said, warning that “if we see that there is an increase again, which is now happening in European countries, we will be compelled to reimpose some of the restrictions.”