Facility not open to the general public

Israel opens first drive-through coronavirus testing facility in Tel Aviv

Magen David Adom pilot program in Hayarkon Park to test some 900 people who have developed symptoms while in home quarantine

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

Medical personnel on Friday opened Israel’s first drive-through coronavirus testing facility in Tel Aviv.

The facility is a pilot program, called “Check and travel,” and is run by the Magen David Adom emergency and rescue service with the backing of the Health Ministry.

The pilot program, housed in two tents in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park, is expected to test some 900 people who are in home quarantine and develop virus symptoms. It is not intended for, or open to, the general public at this stage.

To request a test, 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.

Israel recorded its first fatality from the coronavirus on Friday when an 88-year-old man died in Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital.

The hospital said the patient had been admitted in very serious condition with multiple preexisting conditions. Despite intensive treatment, including being resuscitated from heart failure, his state deteriorated rapidly in recent hours and died, the hospital said.

The condition of three other Israelis being treated at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon for COVID-19 deteriorated Friday, with all of them in serious to critical condition.

The three patients were a 67-year-old woman with a preexisting medical condition, a 91-year-old woman, and 45-year-old man with no past health problems, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

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

Shortly before midnight Friday, an 82-year-old man was transferred to Hasharon Medical Center in Petah Tikva in critical condition.

Another 10 people infected with the virus are receiving treatment at the hospital, three of them in moderate condition.

Meanwhile, the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa said the condition of a 70-year-old man with a previous illness had deteriorated and that he was in serious condition, sedated and on a respirator.

According to the Health Ministry’s latest figures, released Saturday, there have been 883 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Israel, with 15 people in serious condition.

The ministry also said 19 people were in moderate condition and that the rest had mild symptoms.

A total of 15 people have recovered from COVID-19 and been released to their homes.

Israel has taken far-reaching measures to contain the virus and on Friday the cabinet authorized further stringent workplace restrictions, tightening the limit to just 30 percent of workers in both public and private sectors in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

An Israeli firefighter sprays disinfectant at the entrance of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv on March 20, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The Finance Ministry, which announced the decision, said that industries deemed vital to the economy and public well-being would be exempt and noted that all businesses can keep operating as long as they manage to abide by the rules.

The new workplace restrictions come hours after new emergency regulations legalizing tough personal restrictions on movement came into effect Friday, after receiving cabinet approval overnight.

Ministers unanimously approved the measures, which made the limitations on movement announced earlier in the week legally binding and enforceable.

The restrictions dictate that Israelis should stay at home at all times unless for purposes of essential work, stocking up on food, medical issues or a limited number of permitted activities.

Worldwide, there have been at least 256,296 reported coronavirus cases and 11,015 deaths, according to an AFP tally.

The disease generally only shows mild symptoms in the young and healthy, but can cause serious respiratory issues and death in older adults and those with underlying conditions.

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