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Israel makes breakthrough on way to COVID-19 treatment

An Israeli lab claims to have isolated a coronavirus antibody, a “significant breakthrough” toward a possible treatment for COVID-19, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced in a statement on Monday.

The “monoclonal neutralizing antibody,” developed at the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR), can neutralize the coronavirus “inside carriers’ bodies,” according to Bennett.

“I am proud of the Biological Institute’s people who have made a huge breakthrough,” Bennett said. “The creativity and Jewish mind have brought this amazing achievement. The entire security system will continue to operate on the frontlines of the battle against the Corona.”

The laboratory, run but the Defense Ministry, claims to be the first in the world to achieve three milestones:

“Finding an antibody that destroys the virus; that targets this coronavirus specifically; and that is monoclonal, lacking additional proteins that can cause complications for patients,” the Times of Israel reported.

Though a treatment is still months away, IIBR Director Shmuel Shapira said the antibody formula was being patented. An international manufacturer would be sought to mass-produce it afterwards. The antibodies are considered key to developing a possible cure.

This news comes as Israel loosened most restrictions on shops, businesses and schools around the country including opening the Western Wall albeit with stringent requirements for entering the plaza. Only 300 worshipers will be allowed in the plaza at a time, they must wear masks, submit to a temperature check, record their personal details and maintain two meters distance from others while praying.

As of Wednesday, 238 Israelis had died of the virus, the number of patients on ventilators and newly infected have also drastically reduced, while the number of people who have recovered has escalated.

Director General of the Health Ministry Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov told the New York Times that Israel is planning to conduct 100,000 tests for COVID-19 in the coming weeks to determine whether Israelis have developed herd immunity or whether the country will be facing a second wave of the virus in the coming months.

“This is the most important mission: Get ready for the next wave, especially a wave during wintertime,” Bar-Siman-Tov said. “Luckily, the COVID-19 caught us post-influenza season. But we can’t assume that there’s not going to be a next wave or that it will be during summertime.”

The tests in question can determine whether someone is carrying the disease or was previously exposed and developed antibodies.

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