יובל מן
Yuval Mann
Israelis queuing to get tested for coronavirus in Ganei Tikva

Israel's coronavirus testing centers are a horror show

Opinion: Centers where hundreds wait in line to find out whether they have the virus are, ironically, an infuriating potential hotbed for new infection; indeed in some places the IDF is apparently trying to fight the pandemic with a pen and a piece of paper

Yuval Mann |
Published: 01.05.21 , 23:58
Hundreds of men, women and children gathered in the amphitheater in the town of Ganei Tikva, east of Tel Aviv, on Monday.
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  • They weren’t waiting for a show or a concert, but for a coronavirus test in one of IDF Home Front Command’s many testing centers.
    מרכז הבמה גני תקווה בדיקות בדיקת בדיקה קורונהמרכז הבמה גני תקווה בדיקות בדיקת בדיקה קורונה
    Israelis queuing to get tested for coronavirus in Ganei Tikva
    (Photo: Yuval Mann)
    It is fair to assume that within 48 hours of getting tested, quite a few of those waiting in the amphitheater will receive the news that they have indeed contracted the coronavirus.
    Despite this, it seems no special effort had been made to try to stop this mass gathering, which could very easily turn out to be a hotbed of infection and a focal point of another deadly outbreak.
    Sadly, there is no way to pre-register for a coronavirus test. No, the only way to get tested is to physically arrive at the center and wait in line.
    בדיקות קורונה בכיכר רביןבדיקות קורונה בכיכר רבין
    Israelis are tested for coronavirus at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    And, if the Ganei Tikva center is any indication of how things are done, the soldiers registering the hundreds of potential patients in these testing sites do so by handing out a single pen and a piece of paper.
    True, infections through contact with surfaces are probably not as common as we might have thought back in March, and hand sanitizer was available, but why risk it?
    This archaic, lonely piece of paper also offers the disheartened and impatient a great way to cut in line - since the hundreds arriving to get tested are required only to write down their name and their number in line, as opposed to their ID or phone number for example.
    בדיקות קורונה לתלמידי הישיבה בירושליםבדיקות קורונה לתלמידי הישיבה בירושלים
    Yeshiva students waiting in line in Jerusalem to get tested for the virus
    (Photo: Shalev Shalom)
    When I registered just half an hour after the testing center opened, I was already number 311 in line.
    After the aforementioned registering process, all you can do is wait and hope that when one of the attendants calls your number, no one will try to steal your spot on the list by claiming they in fact are number 311.
    This fear of losing one’s coveted spot on the list leads many to wait near the center in a relatively small area, and thus an ever-increasing crowd slowly forms.
    I wonder how senior Health Ministry officials, who urge us to maintain social distancing even when outside and are now demanding a tight closure, would react if they had witnessed such scenes.
    עשרות אנשים ממתינים לבדיקת קורונה בכיכר רבין בתל אביבעשרות אנשים ממתינים לבדיקת קורונה בכיכר רבין בתל אביב
    People waiting in line to get tested in Tel Aviv
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    Had I not been present there myself, I would not have believed that after almost a year of living with the coronavirus, no one in our so-called start-up nation thought of something a little more advanced than a pen and paper to properly manage these queues and prevent such dangerous and unnecessary gatherings.
    Maybe a smartphone app through which the center's staff could send people waiting to be tested a 15-minute warning before their turn arrives? A really big screen that shows the numbers would also be a good idea, or even just a fence to make sure people maintain social distancing.
    Instead, the IDF is fighting the global coronavirus pandemic in some places with nothing more than a pen and paper.
    How fortunate we are that the vaccines are already here, or else we truly would be doomed.

    Yuval Mann is the editor of the Ynet digital channel
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