Dr. Rafael Strugo
Dr. Rafael Strugo
Photo: MDA
Medic in MDA ambulance

Magen David Adom: number of coronavirus deaths may be higher than official toll

Top medic says cause of death of civilians who have passed away at home or in assisted living centers not always known, Israel's testing capacity limited by virology labs' inability to process answers fast enough

Attila Somfalvi |
Published: 04.19.20 , 13:37
A Magen David Adom (MDA) senior official said on Sunday that the number of coronavirus-related deaths in Israel may be higher than the official count as health authorities don't test for the virus in civilians who have passed away at home or assisted living facilities.
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  • "When someone dies at a geriatric center, in many cases, MDA is not called at all," said Strugo. "An elderly person dies at a geriatric center, the establishment's nursing staff, led by a doctor, declares their death and fills out a death certificate."
    אמבולנסים עם חולי הקורונה מגיעים לדן פנורמהאמבולנסים עם חולי הקורונה מגיעים לדן פנורמה
    Medic in MDA ambulance
    (Photo: Yair Sagi)
    No one checks whether the patient died of coronavirus or if the virus complicated their preexisting conditions. Also, not everyone who dies at a hospital is tested for coronavirus. Even in this case, we don't always know whether coronavirus caused the patient's condition to worsen."
    Strugo also said that Israel is unable to expand coronavirus testing due to the country's virology laboratories' inability to process the answers fast enough.
    Virology lab in Lod testing for coronavirus Virology lab in Lod testing for coronavirus
    Virology lab in Lod testing for coronavirus
    (Photo: Courtesy of Health Ministry)
    "We're getting there gradually. There's certainly an increase. MDA alone conducts 7,000 to 8,000 tests a day. If we add the number of tests conducted by hospitals and health maintenance organizations, we reach 11,000 to 12,000 tests a day, and it keeps increasing as [the country's 32 virology] laboratories' work capacity increases."
    The thing currently limiting the number of tests is the laboratories' ability to release the answers fast enough. MDA is capable of running 20,000 or 30,000 tests a day, but it makes no sense when the laboratories can't handle more than 10,000 tests."
    As of Sunday afternoon, 172 Israelis have passed away from complications of COVID-19.
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