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COVID testing sites swamped as they reopen after Yom Kippur

Number of coronavirus patients in serious condition remains largely unchanged but the positivity rate ticks slightly upward

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

A Magen David Adom coronavirus testing station in Katsrin, Golan Heights, on September 15, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
A Magen David Adom coronavirus testing station in Katsrin, Golan Heights, on September 15, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Coronavirus testing facilities were swamped on Friday, the day after Yom Kippur, when testing services were mostly shut as the entire country closed down for the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

Across the country, residents reported long lines and hours-long waits at testing facilities operated by the IDF Home Front Command, which shut on Wednesday afternoon and did not reopen until Friday morning. Several of the testing stations are expected to extend their hours late into the evening to accommodate the long lines. As of 10 a.m. on Friday, more than 20,000 people had already been tested for the coronavirus in just the first two hours of the IDF stations being open.

The IDF Home Front Command said Friday morning that due to the overcrowding, it recommends citizens “look into the possibility of carrying out a test at one of the health maintenance organizations” instead.

Several HMOs did open up their testing options on Thursday evening following the end of Yom Kippur, but in a limited capacity. There was expected to be a significant backlog of those seeking tests in order to end their quarantine or to allow unvaccinated children to attend events that require a “Green Pass,” following more than 30 hours of the sites being closed.

According to Health Ministry statistics, there were just over 54,000 tests carried out during all of Thursday, compared to more than 150,000 on Wednesday, close to 174,000 on Tuesday and more than 186,000 on Monday. Among those tested on Thursday, 3,171 came back positive, with a positivity rate of 6.33%, slightly higher than the rest of the week.

As of Friday morning, there are 83,497 active COVID cases, with 1,097 of them hospitalized, 658 of them in serious condition and 182 on respirators. The number of those in serious condition has dropped somewhat since Sunday, when 709 individuals with COVID were listed in serious condition. But the figure is a slight rise over Wednesday, when 649 people with the coronavirus were said to be hospitalized in serious condition.

Similarly, COVID vaccinations were largely halted over Yom Kippur, with just 2,482 people receiving a vaccine dose on Thursday, compared to close to 93,000 last Thursday. As of Friday morning, 2,984,903 people in Israel — 32% of the population — have received a third booster dose, and 6,056,358 people — 65% of the population — have received at least one dose.

An Israeli woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit health care maintenance organization vaccination center in Jerusalem, September 9, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Testing facilities were similarly swamped over Rosh Hashanah last week, with many testing locations closed for the holiday.

A day after Rosh Hashanah ended, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pledged to address the long lines recorded at testing stations.

“I am aware of the scale of the overcrowding at the testing facilities and am monitoring the reports on the very long wait in the lines,” he said last week. “Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and I are making a joint effort to deal with the situation forthwith.”

Bennett added that Israel is celebrating the High Holidays “with their family, without a lockdown, with children in school and an open economy. This is a considerable effort that requires unity on our part and patience on yours, the public.”

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