Israel will be opening a number of drive-through facilities for coronavirus testing this week in a bid to dramatically increase the number of people tested nationally for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
The first such facility will open in Tel Aviv, with five more launching at a later time in Jerusalem, Haifa, Petah Tikva, Rishon Lezion and Beersheba. The complexes will operate 24 hours a day and will be run by Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s national emergency medical service, in collaboration with the Health Ministry. They will be located in open areas such as parking lots, and staffed by members of the Israeli police and security guards “who will maintain public order,” MDA said in an announcement on Tuesday.
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The first complex is set to open in Tel Aviv’s Park Hayarkon on Friday.
Samples will be collected from people arriving in their private vehicles and without them having to leave it, MDA described. Medical teams will be in full protective gear.
Drive-through testing was widely practiced in South Korea which carried out the highest number of coronavirus tests globally. The country has confirmed over 8,000 cases and just 81 deaths as of March 17.
The novel coronavirus has claimed nearly 8,000 lives so far across the world and has infected close to 200,000 since a reported breakout in Wuhan, China in late December. Italy is the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe with over 30,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,500 deaths.
Israel’s move to increase testing comes amid progressively stricter social distancing measures announced by government authorities over the past few days. On Tuesday, the Health Ministry ordered that people only leave home when absolutely necessary and avoid all public areas including parks, malls, the beach, restaurants, most of which have been closed already.
In a televised statement on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that authorities hope to test some 5,000 people a day for COVID-19 to help stem the spread.
So far, there are 337 people in Israel who have tested positive for the disease and are under medical care, according to Health Ministry data. Over 50,000 people are in verified quarantine.
Currently, only people with medical approval can be tested at the drive-through sites and they will receive instructions via SMS on where to go, MDA said. Those unable to access the complex without using public transport will be able to do the sampling in their home, MDA added.