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Prof. Eran Segal

Prof. Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science who works on developing quantitative models for all levels of gene regulation and has constructed the Institute’s Corona forecasting model, on Sunday told Ynet that “There is room for optimism, we are seeing an improvement in all the indices.”

Prof. Segal pointed out that “the infection rate dropped this morning to 0.85, meaning a 30% drop in verified infections every week. We have not seen these numbers since the beginning of November.”

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“The number of critically ill patients has also dropped significantly,” he noted. “The number was 1,200 two weeks ago, and today – less than a thousand (this figure increased somewhat since the interview and is now at 1,008 – DI).”

According to Prof. Segal, the reason for the improvements is the vaccines.

“When you segment the morbidity data and look at people ages 60 and over, there has been a 60% drop in the number of verified infections since the peak of mid-January, a 40% decrease in the number of critically ill patients, and a 40% decrease in mortality,” he said. “Among those age 60 and under there is a more moderate decline in the number of verified infections. There is an increase in the number of serious patients, but it is coming down.”

“Alongside these optimistic figures it should be stressed that we are not yet past the Corona, and there are still challenges, because now, when we start to come out of the lockdown, there will be more contacts in the State of Israel, and they will create more infections,” he warned.

Prof. Segal added that in the last week there has been an increase in the number of vaccinations, but the pace is still unsatisfactory. “I talk to colleagues abroad, and they’re really jealous of what’s going on here,” he said. However, “the problem is that in the last five or six weeks there has been a slowdown in the rate of vaccinations among people age 60 and over, and a significant decrease among those ages 50 to 60. In this group, over the age of 50, there are 90% of the serious patients and 97% of the fatalities. The more we are vaccinated there, the more dramatically the continued decline in severe morbidity will be.”

“We must reach them,” he says, referring to the 50 and over age group. “We should give them every possible incentive, go door-to-door, and reach those 350,000 people age 50 and over who have not yet been vaccinated.”

Asked if he recommends the government open up the economy, Prof. Segal replied: “I think the conditions permit an opening, but we recommend a staggered opening and a waiting period between phases. The longer we wait between phases, the better we’d be able to control the situation.”

Prof. Segal was reluctant to suggest which segment of society should reopen first, saying, “I leave it to the decision-makers. I can only say that this week the conditions were created that allow for a gradual opening.”

As to the reopening of kindergartens and schools, Prof. Segal cautioned, “…I think we still need to be careful so that we don’t lose control over the pandemic. Therefore, in a red city that still has a lot of infections, you should be careful and wait. In orange cities with a high number of vaccinations, it’s possible to start opening up the education system.”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.