Israel's state broadcaster reported on Saturday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking "mass blood tests" as a way to screen Israelis for COVID-19.

It's unclear whether the blood tests would be mandatory for everyone in the country, but they would be intended to root out the disease and restore economic activity.

The news came amid an uproar surrounding Netanyahu's various efforts to address the pandemic, which has also had a profound impact on the U.S. stock market.


In recent days, Netanyahu and his surrogates have shut down the court system, approved the use of sophisticated phone-surveillance technology on the general public and temporarily suspended the activities of parliament. While Netanyahu has defended the moves as extraordinary steps in extraordinary times, his opponents accuse him of undermining Israel’s democratic foundations in a desperate bid to cement his grip on power and derail a looming criminal trial after coming up short in parliamentary elections this month.

“The state of Israel must do two very important things right now: Deal with the coronavirus crisis from its health, economic and social perspective and at the same time preserve Israeli democracy,” Benny Gantz, his opponent and leader of the Blue and White Party, told Israeli Channel 12 TV. “We need to be very careful not to even approach the margins of dictatorship.”


Nearly every evening, Netanyahu gives a televised address, sternly telling the nation that he is imposing tough new restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus. He has ordered people to stay indoors, ordered tens of thousands of people into home quarantine and virtually sealed its borders.

The coronavirus has spread to more than 100 countries, infected more than 220,000 people worldwide and killed nearly 10,000. For most people, it causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.