Testing for coronavirus is a data gathering tool and not a means to treat the disease, Magen David Adom medical director Refael Strugo stressed on Wednesday, the day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed the public that he planned to dramatically increase coronavirus screenings.For most of the last month, Israel has tested around 750 people per day. In recent days, that number has increased to a little more than 1,000 and even 2,000, according to Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov. During a briefing on Tuesday, Netanyahu committed to increasing the number of tests to between 3,000 and 5,000 per day, which he claimed would be the highest number of tests taken per day / per capita by any country.South Korea tests around 15,000 people per day and has a population around five times larger than Israel’s. The prime minister’s comments came only minutes after Defense Minister Naftali Bennett told the public in an interview on Channel 13 that his aim was to test 30,000 people per day, and minutes before the Health Ministry’s head of public health Sigal Sadetsky explained that whereas screening is important data gathering, isolation is what will control the spread of the coronavirus.“Sadetsky said that the way you stop the spread of the disease is isolation,” Strugo told The Jerusalem Post. “The number of tests you do can give you an idea of how much the disease has spread throughout the community and can tell you if we are reaching the peak, reaching the plateau, starting to get to the point of crisis.” He said it will also help identify hot spots of the disease. “If we want to stop the spread, you have to isolate” people - social distancing, he continued. How many tests should the country be taking per day? Strugo said that while Bennett’s 30,000 would be extreme and likely unrealistic, “there is not one magic number.”He suggested that we are edging toward 5,000 to 10,000 tests and he believes “this would be a good number.” And he said that with the addition of MDA’s six drive-through testing complexes and the purchase by the Health Ministry of half a million test kits, he expects Israel to test around 12,000 people per day very soon. Bar Siman Tov told Channel 12 on Wednesday that Israel was still lacking tests but was making an effort to secure what was needed to achieve the country’s testing goals. Up until now, Israel has conducted around 11,000 tests between those taken by MDA and the hospitals. Of those tested, 433 at press time had been diagnosed with the virus - 4% of those tested. “This percentage is similar to what we see in South Korea and some other countries, and less than what we see in Italy and Spain and other countries,” Strugo said. “We are in the middle.”But he said that testing additional people could change this percentage. If the percentage of infected people rises to 10-12% then Israel will become among the worst countries. “If we do 10-fold more tests than we do today, we will have to wait and see how many people test positive,” he said. But Jonathan Gershoni, a professor of immunology and virology at Tel Aviv University, told the Post that testing could be a meaningful tool in controlling the spread of the virus in Israel.“In general, when a person is infected with a virus, a test is conducted to be able to diagnose what the person is suffering from and to be able to better implement a good therapeutic treatment,” he said. In contrast, in the case of the epidemic coronavirus, there are additional goals to testing. First, about 80% of people infected by SARS-CoV2 tend to develop mild disease and many don’t have any symptoms at all, so they are carrying the virus without knowing that they are infected. Nonetheless, they are contagious and can contribute to spreading the disease to other people.Additionally, said Gershoni, “it seems to be a stubborn virus, that people who are infected and have symptoms and then recover and feel great, are still shedding the virus and thus can potentially continue to be contagious.”This, he said, is why we see only 11 people recovered at press time and the number of infected continuing to grow. And what that means is that a person could feel great, but from a public health perspective, this person still poses a danger. “If you identify people who are asymptomatic and don’t realize they are ill, and you make them aware of their disease status, this is a very important factor,” he said, noting that it may also give the general public some degree of confidence and less anxiety about where the country stands in its battle against coronavirus. Strugo made clear that while MDA plans to test people who are in isolation at the drive-through complexes, this will not allow them to leave quarantine.“For a single patient, it does not matter much,” he reiterated.