Drive-through coronavirus testing sites open in Haifa, Jerusalem and Beersheba

Three facilities open to public for trial, joining location in Tel Aviv, as government seeks to dramatically increase number of tests it conducts daily

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

A drive-through coronavirus testing facility in Haifa on March 23, 2020. (Magen David Adom)
A drive-through coronavirus testing facility in Haifa on March 23, 2020. (Magen David Adom)

Drive-through coronavirus testing facilities in Haifa, Jerusalem, and Beersheba opened to the public on Monday, joining a similar such site in Tel Aviv, as the government seeks to dramatically increase the number of tests it conducts on a daily basis.

The Magen David Adom emergency service, which is operating the facilities, said the new locations at the International Convention Center parking lot in Haifa, the Teddy Stadium parking lot in Jerusalem, and the Bedouin Market in Beersheba opened for a pilot trial period from 5:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m.

An MDA spokesman said the facilities would reopen on Tuesday, but said that the hours at each of those locations moving forward had not yet been decided.

MDA said in a statement that the three new sites would test hundreds of Israelis with symptoms of COVID-19 on Monday and that activity would expand in the coming days.

On Friday, a “Check and travel,” testing facility began operating at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park Tel Aviv, with MDA saying that each drive through facility would begin operating with a goal of carrying out 1,500 tests per day.

A drive-through coronavirus testing facility in Haifa on March 23, 2020. (Magen David Adom)

On Monday morning, the Health Ministry announced that it had conducted 3,208 in the last 24 hours, crossing the 3,000 mark set by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for Sunday for the first time. The premier said that subsequent expectations would be for the ministry to conduct 5,000 followed by 10,000 tests per day. Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has called for the daily number to cross 40,000.

MDA said on Monday that it had collected 3,800 swabs from Israelis at the Tel Aviv site, but it was not clear whether all of them had been tested.

To request a test at the drive-through sites, sick people need to contact MDA, which forwards all applications to a doctor for approval.

After receiving approval for a test, the infected person receives an appointment time and needs to fill out medical forms sent via text message.

The person then receives a QR code on their phone and needs to come to the facility in a private vehicle with closed windows at the scheduled time for the test. Upon arrival, they present their QR code through the closed car window at the first tent, then proceed to the second tent, where they open their window.

A Magen David Adom medical team member at a drive-through site for coronavirus testing, Tel Aviv, March 20, 2020. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

An MDA medic in full protective gear swabs the person’s mouth for a sample, then transfers it to a refrigerated container before it is shipped to a laboratory.

The driver then closes the car windows and returns home. MDA stressed that no one should exit their vehicle or open their windows, unless directed by one of the medics at the facility.

The number of diagnosed cases of the deadly coronavirus in Israel took another leap Monday reaching 1,442 cases, an increase of 371 since the day before.

Of those with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, 29 are in a serious condition and on respiration, the Health Ministry said in an evening update on the situation.

Magen David Adom workers at a drive-through site to collect samples for coronavirus testing, Tel Aviv, March 20, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Despite increasingly strict measures to limit public life in the country the number of cases has continued to climb. One person has died of the disease.

There are 40 patients considered moderately ill with the disease and another 1,331 with light symptoms, the ministry figures showed. So far 41 people have recovered from the disease which causes fever, coughing and breathing difficulties.

There are 346 patients being treated at hospitals around the country and another 540 receiving treatment at home.

Most Popular
read more: