Israel poised to start coronavirus antibody testing


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel will conduct antibody testing for COVID-19 on 100,000 citizens nationwide to determine how widely the virus has spread.

The testing will begin within the next two weeks, Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov, director-general of Israel’s Health Ministry, told The New York Times on Tuesday.

The results also will be used to assess the possibility of a second wave of the coronavirus in Israel and how prepared its medical system is for a return, which could come during the regular flu season.

The results will show if a sizable proportion of Israelis has been exposed to the coronavirus, meaning that it is achieving “herd immunity,” or if only a small number of Israelis carry the antibodies for COVID-19, meaning a new outbreak could overwhelm the health system.

It is not known whether people who have had the coronavirus and recovered or have developed antibodies against the virus are immune from being reinfected.

Israel obtained 2.4 million antibody tests at a cost of $40 million from two suppliers that have received Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, according to The Times. But the reliability of the tests is not clear.

The tests will be taken through Israel’s four HMOs. Patients receiving blood tests will be asked to allow their samples to also be tested for coronavirus antibodies. They also will answer questions including whether and when they experienced symptoms of the coronavirus, whether they were isolated at home or hospitalized, and if friends and relatives contracted the virus.

This week, Israel lifted some aspects of the six-week near-total lockdown on citizens to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, permitting visits among first-degree relatives and opening malls, among other things.

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