Mossad brings another 400,000 coronavirus test kits to Israel

Prime Minister’s Office confirms operation, but refuses to say where the equipment was purchased

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Medical personnel wearing protective gear handle a coronavirus test sample at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem on March 24, 2020 (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Medical personnel wearing protective gear handle a coronavirus test sample at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem on March 24, 2020 (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

The Mossad intelligence service on Thursday helped bring another 400,000 coronavirus test kits to Israel from an undisclosed foreign location, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

That was in addition to the roughly 100,000 test kits the spy agency brought to Israel last week.

The Prime Minister’s Office, which is responsible for the Mossad, said the intelligence service had imported the chemical reagents needed to perform approximately 400,000 tests. The swabs needed to carry out the task are being sourced both internally and from a number of foreign countries.

The PMO refused to comment further on the matter, specifically on the country or countries that sold it the testing components, leading many to assume that it was a country that does not have strong or formal ties with Israel.

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

The Mossad’s first operation to bring the chemical reagents needed for 100,000 coronavirus tests sparked a minor controversy last week, after Health Ministry officials lamented that what they’d actually needed were more swabs. After a small flurry of accusations and reversals, the ministry released a statement affirming that the test kits were “important” and “necessary” in the fight against the disease.

Israel has significantly stepped up its testing over the past week, performing several thousand each day, with the goal of increasing that level further.

The other arms of Israel’s defense establishment have also enlisted in recent days to tackle the virus threat.

Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency is involved in a controversial mass surveillance program authorized by the cabinet to track the movements of virus carriers through their cellphones and credit cards, to facilitate retroactive quarantining of people they came into contact with, which it said Thursday had helped identify 500 new confirmed carriers of the disease.

And the IDF has also been slowly joining the fight, with the Home Front Command increasingly involved in medical assistance efforts while preparing to set up makeshift hospitals and put its logistical capabilities and facilities at the government’s disposal.

According to the Health Ministry, as of Thursday night, there have been 2,693 confirmed cases in Israel. Eight people have died, 46 people are in serious condition and 67 in moderate condition. The vast majority — 2,502 — displayed only light symptoms. Seventy people have fully recovered.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: