Israel will conduct 100,000 serological tests for the coronavirus over the next few weeks, in order to determine whether the country will likely face a second wave of coronavirus outbreaks later this year – or if the population has reached a critical mass of recoveries and asymptomatic cases that have created a “herd immunity” to the virus.
In an interview with The New York Times, the director-general of the Israeli Health Ministry, Moshe Bar Siman Tov, said that in the coming weeks, clinics across Israel will conduct thousands of serological tests, with the goal of testing 100,000 Israelis for antibodies against the coronavirus.
Serological tests, which do not check for current coronavirus infections but instead determine whether a person previously carried the coronavirus and now carries antibodies against the virus, are not conducted via nasal swabs, like standard coronavirus exams, but instead require a blood sample.
Once the tests are completed, health officials will be better able to determine whether Israel’s population has reached “herd immunity” status, whereby a sufficient portion of the population carries antibodies for the virus, preventing mass outbreaks.
If Israel has reached herd immunity, the country can continue to relax restrictions on freedom of movement, and plan for the long-term reopening of the economy.
But if the tests show Israel has not developed herd immunity, the country will have to prepare for a second wave of mass outbreaks in the late fall and winter.
“We cannot assume that there won’t be another wave, or that it will only happen in this coming summer,” said Bar Siman Tov.