IDF Epidemiological Investigation Center can handle 2,000 new cases daily

"Rise in number of cases are out of control," says commander of the center; total of 2,500 investigators will be working by the end of November.

 TEST TUBE with coronavirus label is seen at the end of January.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
TEST TUBE with coronavirus label is seen at the end of January.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF Home Front Command’s Alon task force and its Epidemiological Investigation Center can handle 2,000 cases per day, according to the center’s commander, Col. Relli Margalit. But should there be a need for more investigators than its projected 2,500, its capabilities will suffer, he told The Jerusalem Post earlier this week.
“We are building a very good system that can carry out a good number of quality investigations, but every good machine has a limit,” Margalit said.
Earlier this week, the IDF announced the establishment of Home Front Command’s Ella unit to carry out epidemiological investigations. It will use new technology and additional staff to help the Health Ministry cut the chain of coronavirus infections.
“The Health Ministry is great, but it’s small and can’t deal with everything,” Margalit said. “Of course, the military can’t deal with everything either, but Home Front Command is here to help solve problems that others can’t solve.”
The unit has increased in size from about 700 investigators in mid-August to some 1,450 investigators by the end of the month, and as many as 2,500 will be working by the end of November.
Among the investigators are 600 soldiers from the Education Corps and other noncombat units and nurses. Some 200 women in national service and civilians, including haredim (ultra-Orthodox), students and volunteers from regional authorities, are also investigators.
Investigations can take between several hours to several days to complete, with each investigator expected to carry out at least two per day.
And while they can effectively deal with 2,000 cases per day, “with higher numbers, our efficacy will go down,” Margalit said. “But if the numbers decrease, our effectiveness will go up.”
Nevertheless, “our system can’t work magic and solve everything... but we are trying to lower the numbers that are too high to deal with,” he said.
Israel was widely praised for keeping the pandemic in check when the first few cases were reported in mid-March. But with 8,100 coronavirus cases diagnosed on Wednesday alone, there are concerns it has gotten out of control.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 206,332 cases have been diagnosed. There are some 57,131 active cases, with at least 667 patients in serious condition and 164 on ventilators. The number of deaths from the virus in Israel has risen to 1,335.
“The rise in the number of cases is out of control,” Margalit told the Post, adding that he was very concerned about the way citizens are behaving.
“A lockdown isn’t fully effective if people don’t listen,” he said. “The numbers will definitely get worse. An effective lockdown will bring the numbers down without a doubt. And once the numbers are back down and we are back in control, we can deal with them.”
Despite the challenge, Margalit said he was “very optimistic.”
“We just need to bring the numbers down,” he said. “Every lockdown helps, even if it’s partial. We need to take the tools we have, as well as the lockdown, to cut the chain of infection.”