Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
In the Assaf Harofeh (Shamir Medical Center) Coronavirus ward.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev data scientist Prof. Mark Last says a further lockdown in Israel is not necessary if the current restrictions are maintained and there are no unusual spreading events.

Last has analyzed the available data regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) confirmed cases and deaths and concluded that “if we maintain the current restrictions, then my model predicts that we are at the end of this peak, which should tail off at the end of August or the beginning of September.”


“Moreover, according to my calculations, we need 1.16 million people with antibodies in order to achieve herd immunity and we are very close to that number,” he said.

“If there is no unusual outbreak because of the return to school or trips to Uman or mass weddings, then the infection rate will start dropping. While another lockdown would certainly reduce infection rates, there is no need at the present time since social and physical distancing is working to lower infection rates,” he added.

Last is a member of the Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering at BGU and director of the University’s Data Science Research Center. He has been analyzing health data for the past 20 years.

He compared Israel’s situation to other countries such as Italy, Greece and Sweden.

“Our health system has managed to keep the percentage of deaths from COVID-19 to under 1% out of the total number of confirmed cases. Other countries had rates as high as 16% (Italy) and 14% (Sweden) at the beginning of the epidemic and have recently pushed them to around 3%,” he says.

The outlook for COVID-19 patients who reach the Intensive Care Units in Israel is not so optimistic – about an 80% mortality rate, according to his calculations. The global percentage is currently about 60%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Last’s previous research, unconnected to COVID-19, showed that the normal rate is close to 20% mortality among those admitted to ICUs.

Last’s model is based on the COVID-19 attributed deaths reported by the Israeli Ministry of Health on a daily basis and an estimation of the total number of infected people based on published results of serological tests rather than just on confirmed cases.

There was a discrepancy between his model and the Health Ministry’s reported deaths until the Ministry released a correction last week. Now, his model exactly predicts the death rate.

“We cannot know the actual number of cases of infection unless we test the entire population every day. Initial serological tests indicate the ratio of confirmed cases to actual cases is about 1 to 10. Using those numbers, we now have slightly above one million people with antibodies in Israel and we need at least 1.2 million,” he explained.

Therefore, he is cautiously optimistic about the COVID-19 epidemic in Israel.

“We are heading in the right direction, but it is important not to relax our restrictions or get overconfident,” he warns.

In the meantime, the infection rate in Israel remained very high.

The Ministry of Health updated Wednesday night that it recorded 1,952 new verified patients in the past 24 hours.

404 patients are in serious condition, of whom 119 are on life supports.

Of the 108,054 verified cases recorded from the outbreak of the plague in Israel, 875 have died.


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