As new coronavirus cases continue to decline, Israel is preparing to close down its drive in testing centers around the country, health officials said Thursday.
The Health Ministry is set to shut down mobile COVID testing facilities operated by the IDF's Home Front Command despite some officials expressing opposition to the move.
The decline in Israel's number of active and daily COVID cases looks to be the result of the country's fast-paced vaccination drive, which inoculated over 5.4 million Israelis with the first dose of the vaccine, and over 5 million with both shots.
Coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash also voiced his support for the closure of the drive-in centers during a recent meeting of officials tasked with battling coronavirus. "I am asking the Home Front Command to prepare a plan in the coming weeks that would see the drive-in complexes reduce their activity until their final closure.”
The IDF, meanwhile, opposed the decision. “Closing the drive-in centers will save little [money], and in practice will likely only impair our operational flexibility,” said the chief of the IDF’s coronavirus taskforce, Col. Reli Margalit.
“The drive-ins conduct about 6,000 tests every day. In addition, the interns working there are necessary because they are the ones deciphering tests over the weekend since the health funds are closed,” Margalit added.
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said: "Along with the continued sampling carried out by the IDF at Ben Gurion Airport, in schools and in response to outbreaks, the Health Ministry is considering a reduction in mobile facilities. When the decision is made, the locations of the testing stations and their hours of operation will be announced."
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry is also working to scrap free coronavirus testing for those who have recovered or have been fully inoculated. "Today, a large portion of the tests performed are unnecessary and are performed for leisure and not medical needs," said a senior official.
“There is certainly no need for the state to fund them. It is time to stop these tests, close the facilities that are no longer needed and perform tests that are only medically needed in the health funds only."
Head of public health services, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis for her part, opposed the move. "The whole point is to do extensive tests for anyone who wants to, so that we do not find ourselves with a raging pandemic in a few months. If we look only at the money we will not be able to control the infection rate in the future.”