Mossad Obtains 100,000 Coronavirus Tests for Israel Overnight, Gets Told Off by Health Ministry Official: 'What We Need is Swabs'

Israel's spy agency has secured 100,000 extra coronavirus test kits and ferried them to the country, only to be told by a health official that the kits are not what the government really needs.

Israel's Channel 12 news was the first outlet to report that Mossad secured and transported 100,000 test kits to increase the rate at which the government can test potential coronavirus patients. The news channel said this is the first batch of a planned 4 million extra test kits that Mossad will deliver to Israel in the coming days.

Ynet reported that the kits came from two different countries, and The Jerusalem Post said they had been obtained with consent of the countries in question.

Health Ministry director general Moshe Bar Siman-Tov appeared to confirm the report Thursday, though his deputy said the government's main problem is specifically that it does not have enough swabs, rather than a general lack of testing kits.

Siman-Tov told the Kan state broadcaster that "we need to check if the test kits Mossad brought are valid and usable," according to The Times of Israel. "We are using all the manpower we have in the country to treat the pandemic outbreak," he added.

But his deputy Itamar Grotto told Ynet that "what has arrived at the moment is not exactly what we are missing." He explained, "There are various components in the kit...Our problem is we're missing swabs."

Mossad officials disputed Grotto's assertion, saying, "Mossad brought what it was asked," The Times of Israel reported. "Mossad will clarify the needs with the Health Ministry. The clandestine channel is open and will continue to be used to bring in what is needed."

Asked to comment, the prime minister office sent a statement to Newsweek explaining, "We are fully utilizing all the state's capabilities to assist in dealing with the coronavirus, including the Mossad and other bodies. The equipment that arrived in Israel is required and essential." Newsweek has also approached the Israeli defense ministry for comment.

Like other nations, Israel has been struggling to ramp up its testing capacity to get a handle on how many cases of coronavirus there are in the country and where transmission is taking place. The government has said it plans to reach 5,000 tests per day within the coming days and weeks.

There have been 433 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Israel, according to Johns Hopkins University. No deaths have been registered in the country thus far.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • If you feel unwell (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and call local health authorities in advance.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
Israel, coronavirus, test, kits, mossad
A municipal employee sprays disinfectant in a children playground in the Israeli coastal city of Bat Yam on March 18, 2020. JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images/Getty

This article has been updated to include comment from the prime minister's office.