Israel’s health-care system is set to begin nationwide serological testing on Sunday to determine how much of the population has been exposed to coronavirus, Yisrael Hayom reported.
In contrast to the test for the coronavirus itself, which is based on nasal swabs, serological tests are conducted using blood draws and can determine if the subject has been exposed to the virus, even if he or she is asymptomatic, based on the presence or absence of antibodies. The testing campaign can help provide a more accurate picture of how widespread the virus actually is among the Israeli population.
Israel’s four kupot cholim (health-care providers) – Clalit, Maccabi, Meuhedet and Leumit – will carry out a total of 70,000 serological tests.
Patients undergoing blood tests for unrelated conditions, or general blood tests, will be offered the serological tests, as well.
Thus far, Israel has purchased approximately 250,000 serological testing kits, and this week Kan 11 News reported that some of the kits are due to expire soon.
“We are aware that if we don’t run the tests soon, some of them will expire,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told reporters at a ministry briefing on Tuesday.
“We have started working on that in two areas – in Bnei Brak, and among illegal residents in south Tel Aviv … We hope to get to tens of thousands of tests,” Edelstein said.
Dr. Yotam Shenhar, who heads the Special Tests Department at Leumit Health Care’s central laboratory, said, “We’re ready to begin running the tests. In terms of carrying out the tests in the lab, it won’t cause any significant burden, because the tests are analyzed using automatic equipment. It shouldn’t hurt our ability to carry out ‘regular’ coronavirus tests.”
In early June, the results of a small-scale serological survey conducted by researchers from Tel Aviv University using 1,700 tests found that Israel is far from “herd immunity,” and that only some 2.5% of the population, or about 300,000 people, have been exposed to the coronavirus.