Health Ministry considering changing coronavirus testing

The ministry has set a quota of 37 testing rounds. In Germany a quota of only 30 rounds was set, and the United States requires 34.

‘DID THEY know I was going to get a coronavirus test? Were they judging me for walking to the center?’  (photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER/FLASH90)
‘DID THEY know I was going to get a coronavirus test? Were they judging me for walking to the center?’
(photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER/FLASH90)
The Health Ministry is considering changing the methodological criteria for coronavirus tests in order to minimize false positive results, the ministry said Tuesday morning.

The ministry's statement followed a report in The Jerusalem Post's sister publication Maariv that the existing criteria and the tests' over-sensitivity may be the cause of the high number of coronavirus infections reported by the ministry.

The criteria in Israel for determining via a lab test whether someone has coronavirus are higher than in many other countries, including Germany and the US.

Samples taken from the subjects are transferred to the PCR device in the laboratory to identify the genetic material of the coronavirus. The device tries to detect signs of the virus in a process that is repeated dozens of times.

The Health Ministry has set a quota of 37 rounds. In Germany a quota of only 30 rounds was set, and the United States requires 34.

"The criterion in Israel means that the number of infections is very high," Prof. Shlomo Maayan, director of the Infectious Disease Unit at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon said. 

"If the number of rounds is reduced, the number of patients may be smaller, and then the pressure to close the country will also be smaller."

According to the recent ministry statement, values of the tests are determined in accordance with their type.

The ministry also said it is "going forward with a test to "examine the CT results and [determine] the presence of the infectious coronavirus viral load simultaneously." 

The test "is expected to take some time, and the ministry will make a decision based on the results and will consider changing the testing criteria," it said.

"Similar tests are conducted in various countries around the world. As of now, there we have not had results showing a correlation between the CT values and the viral load and [a patient's] ability to infect, which calls for cautious conduct," the statement said.

"It is not unusual for officials to make a decision having no other choice due to insufficient or inaccurate information," Health Ministry Deputy director-general Itamar Grotto said Monday in a Knesset Coronavirus Committee hearing.

"It is what it is, and this is what we have to base our actions on. The military and [the IDF's elite military intelligence] Unit 8200 are working day and night in order to polish the data."

The "cause of death is determined by the physician signing the death certificate. [They] determine the central, leading cause of death," Grotto said.
 
Approximately "700-1,000 people die annually from flu complications, but the flu – as the leading, direct cause [of death] – is listed in only 100 [patients]. We cannot address unverified or anonymous results, nor those registered in an unclear way."
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.