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Tel Aviv hospital launches coronavirus tests with results in 1.5 hours

Method four times more costly than standard technology and can only log a small number of tests at a time, so will only be used in unique circumstances

Magen David Adom medical team members, wearing protective gear, handle a coronavirus test from patients in Jerusalem, April 17, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Magen David Adom medical team members, wearing protective gear, handle a coronavirus test from patients in Jerusalem, April 17, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital began carrying out coronavirus tests on Wednesday that provide results within an hour and a half, the medical center announced.

The testing center is using American technology designed to perform a small number of tests in a short amount of time. This is in contrast to the prevailing technology used in Israel which allows for a large number of samples to be tested at a time, but takes days to provide results.

A significant drawback of the new type of testing is the cost — roughly four times the amount required for the mass-sampling technology, Channel 12 reported.

Thus, the rapid-result technology will only be used at testing centers of particular importance where quick results are required, such as for screenings of hospital-admitted patients and in maternity wards, a statement from Ichilov reported.

On Wednesday night, the Health Ministry announced that it was continuing to increase its testing ability, saying that it had conducted 13,342 tests on Monday, up from the 12,281 it had initially declared, which itself would have been a single-day record. The ministry said 11,422 tests were taken on Tuesday, continuing a run of several consecutive days with at least 10,000 tests daily.

A Magen David Adom paramedic performs a coronavirus test at a mobile testing station, in Jerusalem’s Geula neighborhood, on April 20, 2020. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Testing numbers for Wednesday have not yet been released.

Efforts to hit the target received a further boost last Friday with the Foreign Ministry saying it had signed a deal with Chinese company BGI that will see the firm send lab equipment to Israel by this week’s end, allowing for conducting some 12,000 tests per day.

Once established, the BGI equipment will expand the scope to perform as many as 20,000 tests per day, the ministry said, adding that tests will be performed in Israel by Israeli companies selected by the Health Ministry.

Earlier this month, the Health Ministry said Israel signed a NIS 90 million ($25 million) deal with BGI to purchase the special equipment but proceedings had evidently stalled.

The new tests are PCR tests — polymerase chain reaction tests — which directly detect viral nucleic acids. Some tests detect the body’s antibodies to the virus.

BGI’s tests have been used widely in China, and are being distributed to over 50 other countries and regions, the firm said. Results from the tests are available three hours after they are administered.

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