Senior Israeli doctor at lab stricken with virus, protective gear in short supply

“We need to find a more effective course of action,” said one doctor.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israel is having trouble keeping all hands on deck in the fight against the coronavirus as the number of medical staff in the country stricken with the disease has risen to 21, with nine of them doctors, including a senior scientist at a coronavirus testing lab. Over 2,500 medical personnel are in isolation.

“The feeling isn’t easy,” Dr. Ray Bitton, head of of an Israeli medical organization, told Ynet. “We’re worried. There is a lack of clear guidance for teams on how to operate in the various situations we encounter and there are shortcomings of the most basic shielding like dust masks and N95 masks.”

The lack of supplies has made it difficult for Israel to follow the World Health Organization’s guidelines for the protection of medical teams that include masks, disposable gowns, gloves and disinfection once every half an hour.

On Monday, The Jerusalem Post reported that “the deputy director-general of the Central Laboratory for Detecting Coronavirus of the Ministry of Health at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer tested positive for COVID-19. The laboratory, which carried out approximately 480 tests on a daily basis, was shut down.”

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Most of his patients, who were senior citizens, had to be tested and the staff was sent into home isolation, the paper reports.

Average Israelis have found it challenging to track down basic supplies in pharmacies such as hand sanitizer. Face masks disappear from the shelves the day they’re stocked.

Dr. Bitton said, “We need to find a more effective course of action, so that teams don’t come into physical contact with one another, in the event, God forbid, one team is exposed it doesn’t lead to the entire department shutting down.”

On Monday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu introduced a series of new restrictions in an effort to thwart the spread of the deadly coronavirus, including the possibility of locking down specific local areas with high concentrations of cases.

Among the new emergency restrictions Netanyahu announced were a general reduction in economic activity in the private sector and digital tracking measures to monitor people who have the virus.

As of Tuesday, private firms are expected to reduce on-location staff by 70 percent.