Coronavirus testing centers throughout the country experienced continued congestion Thursday, as an apparent backlog from delays over the Rosh Hashanah holiday and a surge of fresh people seeking to be tested caused extremely long waits.
Over the two-day holiday and on Thursday there were reports of some people waiting as much as three hours to be tested. A number of testing centers, such as in East Jerusalem, had much less traffic, the Walla news site reported.
The long waits on Rosh Hashanah were blamed on fewer testing centers being operational, while a large number of students were seeking tests ahead of their return to school or after they had been exposed to a confirmed case.
Health Ministry officials were reportedly fuming that the delays had continued beyond the Jewish festival, which finished Wednesday night.
“It is unreasonable that a year and a half into [the pandemic], operational difficulties are still being discovered at the testing stations around the country,” an unnamed health official told the Ynet news site.
“Unreasonable queues are causing the public to abandon [the wait] and give up on the vital tests to deal with the spread of the coronavirus,” the official added.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday instructed testing sites to continue operating late into the night to meet the high demand. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz encouraged the public to get tested at rapid test locations, where less traffic was reported (and where tests are not free for people who are eligible for the vaccine but have chosen to forgo it).
Last year, Israelis celebrated Rosh Hashanah under lockdown, but this year the government has resisted reimposing sweeping restrictions to contain the latest wave, instead relying on vaccinations and less stringent curbs on gatherings.
However, the Health Ministry on Thursday said 102,638 children and teens were quarantining after having come in contact with a confirmed COVID case or returning from abroad from a destination that requires self-isolation.
Another 41,816 school children were infected with COVID-19, according to the ministry.
Over Wednesday, 3,247 new cases were identified, ministry data showed. Another 1,818 were detected by Thursday morning.
Of the 62,371 tests conducted on Wednesday, 5.44% were positive, a sharp drop from Tuesday’s 7.22% rate.
The number of active cases stood at 84,505, of whom 680 were in serious condition. The death toll since the start of the pandemic stood at 7,279.
Meanwhile, the R-value, the reproduction rate of the virus measuring the average number of people each positive person infects, dropped to 0.83, the lowest recorded number since May. Any number over 1 indicates infections are rising, while a figure below that signals that an outbreak is abating.
The last time the Health Ministry reported a basic reproduction number below 1, before it dropped to 0.95 on Wednesday, was in early June, before new daily cases began to surge.