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Netanyahu instructs spy agency Mossad to 'find medical equipment' abroad amid ventilator supply crisis

Israel's healthcare system now has no more than 50 unused ventilators left [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 March, 2020

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It is not clear where Israel's national security agency will acquire the equipment the country desperately needs.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday charged the country’s intelligence services with the task of ''acquiring medical equipment abroad'', as the country faces an uphill battle against a rising surge in coronavirus cases.

There are now only 50 unused ventilators in Israel for use in clinical emergencies, according to a health ministry document seen by Israel’s Channel 13.

Prior to the coronavirus crisis, the country had around 3000 respirators.

The dire predicament likely drove Netanyahu to take the radical step of ordering Mossad chief Yoram Cohen to lead an emergency team in efforts to procure medical equipment from ''around the world'', Times of Israel reported.

The latest development follow an earlier Mossad operation to airlift some 100,000 coronavirus test kits to the Jewish State, which were later revealed to be ''unusable'' by the health ministry.

The kits lacked an all-important patented liquid in which the testing swabs would be dipped before screening for Covid-19, a ministry spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post.

Read more: Israel’s Mossad buys 100,000 ‘unusable’ testing kits with wrong swabs for coronavirus

The revelation of Israel’s shrinking ventilator supply, in the face of a crisis which has so far claimed the lives of five people among 2030 confirmed virus infections, was followed by the announcement of a series of further stringent measures to combat the spread.

Israelis will now be required to stay within 100m of their homes.

Prayer services can only be conducted in public places, while transport in the Jewish State will operate at a quarter of its capacity.

Earlier on Tuesday, State Comptoller Matanyahu Englman announced that he was in self-isolation after having met someone diagnosed with the virus.

A day before, his office issued a report which concluded that the country's health care was grossly unprepared for the pandemic.

Published before the crisis struck, the audit warned of a lack of hospital beds, isolation rooms, ill-equipped intensive care unit and a lack of cooperation between the health and defense ministries.

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