Mar 19, 2020 - World

Israeli intelligence bought 100,000 of the wrong coronavirus test kits

An Israeli scientist conducts coronavirus tests in Tel Aviv. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

Israel's foreign intelligence service, Mossad, stepped in to help secure much-needed coronavirus tests from countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations, only to find they were the wrong ones, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: Israel has serious shortages of medical equipment needed to fight the outbreak, leaving Israeli embassies and even intelligence agencies scrambling to get their hands on everything from medical masks to test kits.

The backstory: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had requested Mossad's help, hoping the intelligence service could use its web of secret contacts around the world to find relevant medical supplies.

  • Mossad starting approaching Arab and Muslim countries that were better supplied, but with which Israel has no diplomatic relations.

How it happened: Mossad bought 100,000 tests, which arrived in Israel last night. The agency began to brief reporters on its achievement, but the headlines turned out to be less exciting than they'd hoped.

  • Israel's Ministry of Health wanted swabs and test tubes for collecting samples from patients, Israeli officials say, while Mossad bought kits for a different part of the test that aren't currently needed. The officials blamed "miscommunication."
  • Netanyahu's office went into damage-control mode, saying the supplies would be used for other purposes and asking the Ministry of Health to issue statements praising Mossad.
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