Country loses 48-year-old father, 100-year-old grandmother to coronavirus

Close to 190 people dead * Health Ministry to roll out serological tests * Patient No. 7 found to lack immunity to COVID-19

A police officer updates a criminal report (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
A police officer updates a criminal report
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
A father of 14 children and a 100-year-old grandmother were two of Israel's victims who died of the novel coronavirus on Tuesday as the country's death toll climbed to 184. 
The 48-year-old father succumbed to the coronavirus overnight Monday at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. He was identified as Rabbi Chaim Aaron Turzin, a resident of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) city of Bnei Brak and head of the Or Yitzhak Yeshiva. He was said to not have had any preexisting conditions. 
“The Yeshiva head was friendly and warm with the students. He always met them at their level and could penetrate their hearts, especially of those who had a difficult life,” Raffi Ohana, a student of the rabbi, told the haredi news portal Kikar Hashabbat.
“It is important to understand that we are talking about a yeshiva for people from a disadvantaged background, for whom he cared day and night, and attended to all their needs, constantly thinking about how he could help them and to give them everything so that they would not need to look for it somewhere else,” he said.
“Through the physical world, he brought us to spirituality,” Ohana added. “I have no doubt that hundreds of young men have remained in the realm of Torah thanks to his work and have established exemplary families.”
Images of several of his sons saying kaddish, the traditional Jewish prayer for mourners, were seen on various sites on Tuesday, as their father was buried.
"In 48 years, you manage to deliver what some people cannot in 120 years," one of his sons said, according to Kikar Hashabbat. "What confidence you had. You never had any worry; you committed your whole self to others. You never showed that anything was hard for you or that it hurt you."
To date, only two other patients under the age of 50 have died: a 29-year-old woman and a 37-year-old man, both of whom suffered from severe pre-existing medical conditions.
The majority of Israelis who fell victim to SARS-CoV-2 have been over the age of 80, including more than 60 who were sick and living in the country’s senior living facilities.
As of Tuesday evening, there are 13,942 people infected with coronavirus in Israel. Among them, 139 are in serious condition, including 113 who are intubated. Some 184 people have died and 4,507 have recovered.
Hours after the news of Turzin’s death, the country learned that a 100-year-old Ethiopian woman had also passed away from the virus, becoming the country’s oldest victim.
A resident of Rehovot, Asias Argo immigrated to Israel in 1984 as part of "Operation Moses", which clandestinely airlifted around 8,000 Ethiopian Jews from Sudan to Israel.
Argo leaves behind nine children and 30 grandchildren.
The grandmother tested positive for the virus on Passover eve. When the staff of the local Kaplan Medical Center understood that she was near death, they gave her daughter protective gear and allowed her to visit her in the ward for the last time.
"All we have to say now is thank you to the team that took care of my mother," daughter Osnat Zagai told Ynet. "Mother was a righteous woman who had a long life and was blessed to see how much her family grew… I saw my mother, patted her head and said goodbye to her one last time. It was exceedingly difficult.”
Israel is the first country in the world where some hospitals are allowing relatives of dying coronavirus patients a last visit to bid farewell.
"That's the least we can give to the families of patients who are here with us in the unit. While we are here for the patients, it is just as important to be for the families," the chief nurse of Kaplan’s corona ward Andalib Mer'i told Ynet.
The Health Ministry has begun increasing daily testing and some 12,281 people were screened Sunday. The number is up from the week before when around 10,000 tests were taken per day.
The ministry is hoping to launch serological tests, which show whether people have developed antibodies to the virus and therefore cannot be re-infected, which would allow them to return to work and life without fear of getting sick.
Channel 12 reported that such a program would be divided into three phases, starting with testing in Bnei Brak, which has had a high rate of infection. If the ministry sees that the results of the tests are reliable, then the country will use these tests in additional cities with high infection rates. Finally, serological testing could take place in large-scale factories or industrial zones.
Serological tests have not yet been validated; many rapid serological tests that have been found faulty. Serological testing can be especially helpful in identifying people who have been infected with the virus, were asymptomatic and recovered.
However, it is still unknown whether one develops immunity to COVID-19 and therefore cannot be re-infected, though most researchers believe that reinfection is very unlikely to occur.
South Korea reported that the virus was reactivated in more than 100 people. In addition, in February, one of the Israeli passengers who returned from quarantine in Japan after having been presumed to be recovered tested positive on arrival in Israel.
On Tuesday, the country’s seventh coronavirus patient, Ronnie Bergil, posted on Facebook that while donating plasma last week and undergoing a serological examination, he was informed that no antibodies were found in his blood. He reportedly recovered from COVID-19 a month and a half ago.
Bergil told Ynet he is not confident that he was ever sick because none of the people with whom he had been in contact contracted the virus from him. He was only hospitalized for five days, he told Ynet, and although his first test was positive, all subsequent tests came out negative for the novel virus.