The number of tests for the coronavirus reached a new peak in Israel on Thursday with 5,200 new tests conducted, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Health Ministry to reach the target of 10,000 within two weeks.
But labs are not keeping up with the demand and samples sometimes analyzed after 24 hours.
There are 35 laboratories working to identify coronavirus victims, but most do not operate on a 24-hour schedule and some even halt work at 4 pm despite technicians begging to be allowed to work longer hours.
Dr. Avi Peretz, who heads the Israel Society for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (ISCLS), says hospitals are his main concern because they are busy round the clock and often need results quickly to determine if a patient should be admitted to the coronavirus wards or be hospitalized with the general public.
"We are fighting a war," he says. "As soon as we are allowed to operate 24 hours a day, we will be able to increase our capacity."
Thousands of Israelis have been waiting to hear whether they have contracted coronavirus.
One man said he has been waiting for his test results since Saturday.
"They told me I will get results within 48 hours tops, but I have been calling but have been told to self-quarantine in the meantime," he says.
In one lab in the north of the country, 360 samples that have not yet been analyzed have been waiting for two days.
Dr. B., who runs the lab, says there is chaos in the Health Ministry when it comes to lab tests.
"The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing," she says. "We received six calls from different departments on the same matter today. It is a mess."
Dr. B. says the new target for testing is not achievable.
"Where are they getting this idea of 10,000 tests a day?" she says. "I don't see how we can work any harder."
Another official in the lab also says the ministry is disorganized when it comes to testing.
"There must be one central function in the ministry that knows where and when each test was taken, where it is stored and when analyzed and when results are known," he says.
This official claimed the ministry has failed when it comes to lab testing.
"If they had started testing earlier and had prepared labs on-time, more carriers of the virus would have been found and isolated."
Dr. Marielle Kaplan, who heads the labs at Rambam Hospital in Haifa says workers are being overlooked and non-professionals are involved in the process.
"Lab testing should not be seen as just another medical tool, you need qualified people to analyze the tests," she says. "We are experts in the field and this is what we are trained to do so we can contribute a great deal."