Israel tests 100,000 to prevent pandemic 'second wave'

Israel has launched a campaign to test 100,000 people for novel coronavirus antibodies as the country prepares for a possible "second wave" of cases, a top official said Thursday.

The initiative is one of the world's largest such schemes and aims to test Israel's "collective immunity" against the COVID-19 disease.

"We have started ... It should not be too long before we see some interesting trends," said Yair Schindel, a senior official on the government's task force tackling the pandemic.

The government is trying to determine how widely the virus has spread and who is most at risk going forward.

In parallel to the national campaign, authorities are also running separate surveys of "high-risk areas."

Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, while other focus groups include hospital staff treating coronavirus patients.

"We need to understand how many of them were actually exposed and created antibodies," said Schindel, who co-founded aMoon, a venture capital firm specializing in biomedical start-ups.

According to a previous study, more than 70 percent of the coronavirus patients in the country had been infected with a strain originating in the U.S., the remaining patients were infected with strains imported from Belgium (eight percent), France (six percent), the UK (five percent), Spain (three percent), Italy, Philippine, Australia, and Russia.

The study was based on a first large-scale genome sequencing of the novel coronavirus strain, conducted by researchers from Tel Aviv University.

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(With input from AFP)