Coronavirus testing (illustrative)
Coronavirus testing (illustrative)IDF spokesperson

After months of preparatory work, the IDF has significantly stepped up its coronavirus testing capacity, and should attain the ability to conduct 100,000 tests per day within the next two weeks. This is the figure named half a year ago by former Defense Minister Naftali Bennett as the ideal goal for the number of tests to be administered per day.

According to a senior army officer, the IDF has been enhancing its testing capacity by around 10,000 tests every week, and it is also improving its ability to track coronavirus carriers.

“Within approximately two weeks, we will be able to trace all those who came into sustained contact with confirmed coronavirus carriers within 30 hours, as opposed to the four to five days it took us a few months ago. This should make a huge difference to our ability to cut off the chains of transmission,” he added.

The officer noted that the IDF now employs many more people than previously in epidemiological research, with over 3,000 people working around the clock on contact tracing and testing.

The IDF’s expanding testing and tracing capacity proved itself last week, the officer added, when 30 people in a certain institution were diagnosed with coronavirus out of a staff of 150. Their swift identification enabled their contacts to be traced quickly and many chains of transmission were cut off right at the outset, before the 30 cases could lead to a major outbreak affecting hundreds or even thousands.

Another recent development is the opening up of the contact tracing and testing system to additional companies, three of which are now under consideration in the new tender.

A senior officer in the Home Front Command revealed that far more people are reporting the names of people with whom they came into contact with – up to 40% now as opposed to an extremely low figure in the past. “The more contacts we manage to trace, the easier it is to cut off the chains of contagion,” he said. “Ideally, we want to reach around 18 people per diagnosed carrier. We’re already up to around 10 to 12 people, and we’re improving all the time.”

Another goal of the army is conducting mass testing in the hi-tech sector, in the large companies based in various locations around the country such as Rafael. They also plan to set up testing booths at bus stations. “The overall aim is to identify as many coronavirus carriers as possible via testing, and to send them into isolation where necessary,” the Home Front Command officer said.

The IDF has submitted a request to the Health Ministry, asking that it be placed in charge of the country’s vaccination program, and reports suggest that Prof. Hezi Levy, the director-general of the Health Ministry, seems likely to approve the request.

“This would be a massive project – to be put in charge of the country’s vaccination project,” admits the officer. “But the IDF has the ability to make it happen.”