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Israel: New Definition of “Recovery” from COVID-19 Reduces Number of Required Tests

(July 28, 2020) On July 21, 2020, Israel’s Ministry of Health (MOH) adopted a new directive providing criteria for approving the termination of COVID-19 patients’ isolation based on time segments instead of the previously required medical testing.

Until the adoption of the new directive, patients suffering from COVID-19 symptoms were required to undergo a minimum of 14 days of isolation, including two consecutive negative COVID-19 tests, before being allowed back into the community.

The new directive explains that, “according to the latest information regarding COVID-19, the risk of contracting the disease after nine days from the onset of symptoms is low. Subsequently, international organizations have updated their recommendations for the isolation of a verified case.” The criteria established by the new directive are based on World Health Organization recommendations from June 20.

Accordingly, patients will be authorized to end their isolation as follows:

  • Symptomatic patients: 10 days after symptom onset or the receipt of a positive test result if the date of onset cannot be determined, plus at least three additional days without symptoms (including fever and respiratory symptoms). The minimum recovery time for such patients will therefore be 13 days. (New Directive § 1.)
  • Asymptomatic cases: 10 days after positive test for SARS-CoV-2. (§ 1.)
  • Patients belonging to the following groups will be defined as recovering only on the basis of tests:
    • Patients hospitalized at any stage of the disease
    • Tenants and caregivers in institutions with a population at risk for severe morbidity due to COVID19, including nursing homes, rehabilitation institutions, institutions caring for geriatric patients, assisted living facilities, and subsidized housing clusters
    • Those suffering from suppression of the immune system. (§ 2.)

According to the director of  health services of one of Israel’s healthcare funds, the new criteria will greatly reduce the number of tests for recovering patients and enable the testing of others, thus interrupting the chains of transmission. He added that

[the new criteria] also reduce our efforts to sample at home, as these tests are very expensive and require manpower. The follow-up time is also shortened, and this will lead to relief in terms of manpower that we can move to other places.

It’s a step in the process of recognizing a disease that needs to be coped with. The chances that verified patients will infect [others] in the community are very small. All studies show that the risk is very small, but the benefit we will earn will prevent much more infection than those exceptional cases. The risk actually does not exist.