Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency service announced on Wednesday it had briefly suspended most coronavirus testing throughout Israel after the Ministry of Health instructed health maintenance organizations (HMOs) to refrain from using swabs imported from China for fear they may be faulty or contaminated.
"We were given Ali-Express-grade swabs without anyone noticing, and people realized pretty quickly what they've done. The main problem is in the substance in the test tube," a Health Ministry source told Ynet.
The problem was detected thanks to the alertness of an employee in one of the country's virology labs after she noticed the color of the test results was different than expected, indicating some kind of malfunction.
A Magen David Adom official later said that the testing had only been suspended for an hour or so while alternative chemicals were introduced. A decision on the viability of the initial testing had yet to made, he said.
Thousands of Israelis have been tested in recent days using the Chinese swabs. Health officials believe that some 10,000 faulty swabs have been sent to HMOs in recent days, and those tested using them will most likely be called to retake the test.
HMOs are currently awaiting the Ministry of Health's decision whether to re-examine individuals who have been tested using the faulty swabs. All HMOs and MDA have alternative types of swabs produced by Biological Industries and Novomed.
"In light of the changes to some of the swab kits, we recommend using kits manufactured by Biological Industries and/or Novomed until told otherwise," read a Health Ministry statement. "Please make sure these kits are kept at a temperature not exceeding 25 degrees Celsius."
It is not yet clear whether this malfunction has affected test results, but HMOs estimate it had not.
An HMO official said that in recent days they had been instructed by the Ministry of Health not to use a shipment of swabs they had received last week due to concerns they may be contaminated.
Lab workers recently received an update saying the reason the faulty swabs should not be used does not affect the quality of the results, but rather a technical issue in the handling of the kits. The reagent substance in the swabs was tested and found fit for purpose.
First published: 18:37, 04.22.20