Israel tests 100,000 to prevent pandemic ‘second wave’

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel has launched a campaign to test 100,000 people for novel coronavirus antibodies as the country prepares for a possible “second wave” of cases, a top official said yesterday.

The initiative is one of the world’s largest such schemes and aims to test Israel’s “collective immunity” against the COVID-19 disease.

“We have started… It should not be too long before we see some interesting trends,” said senior official on the government’s task force tackling the pandemic Yair Schindel.

The government is trying to determine how widely the virus has spread and who is most at risk going forward.

In parallel to the national campaign, authorities are also running separate surveys of “high-risk areas”.

Israel’s conservative community has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, while other focus groups include hospital staff treating coronavirus patients.

“We need to understand how many of them were actually exposed and created antibodies,” said Schindel, who co-founded aMoon, a venture capital firm specialising in biomedical start-ups.

The World Health Organization (WHO), however, said last month there is no evidence that those who have recovered from COVID-19 are protected from future infection.

Israel has gradually relaxed its anti-coronavirus measures in recent weeks, reopening schools, beaches and restaurants.

The country has registered 281 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 16,800 cases in a population of around nine million, according to official figures.