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End of COVID-19 Peak in Israel Is Only Weeks Away

End of COVID-19 Peak in Israel Is Only Weeks Away

August 31, 2020

Robotics & High-Tech

The Jerusalem Post — Prof. Mark Last, a member of BGU’s Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering and director of the Data Science Research Center, has predicted that the coronavirus infection rate in Israel will start to decline within the next three weeks, but that there could be 500 more dead here by the end of September.

Prof. Last said a further lockdown is not necessary if the current restrictions are maintained and there are no unusual spreading events.

Prof. Last has been analyzing the data on COVID-19 attributed deaths reported by the Health Ministry on a daily basis since March.

Prof. Mark Last

He also used data from serological screenings that estimate the total number of infected, rather than just confirmed cases.

He presented his findings at the AIME 2020: International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Medicine this past week.

“There are several indications that when the entire population is susceptible – meaning there is no immunity at all – but the population observes social distancing, then the reproduction number (R) is somewhere between 1.1 and 1.2 – closer to 1.2,” Last explains. The R number is how many people one infected person will infect.

Prof. Last noted that from serological tests, Israel knows that nine to 10 times more people have been infected with the virus than the number of confirmed cases, which is around 112,000.

“We already have more than one million people with antibodies – with immunity,” says Prof. Last.

According to Prof. Last, when about a sixth of the population becomes immune and people observe social distancing, then the reproduction rate will drop below 1 and therefore the number of infected people per day will also decline.

“We need to get about 1.5 million Israelis infected, which means 140,000 to 150,000 diagnosed cases,” says Prof. Last. “That should only take a few more weeks.”

The combination of Health Ministry directives and herd immunity – when a large portion of the population is immune to a specific disease – could allow Israel to maintain its current economic activity and even potentially increase it.

“If we maintain the current restrictions, then my model predicts that we are at the end of this peak,” Prof. Last says.

“While another lockdown would certainly reduce infection rates, there is no need for it at the present time, since social and physical distancing is working to lower infection rates,” he adds.

Prof. Last added that his model is only as good as the knowledge that exists about coronavirus.

Currently, scientists believe that if people catch the virus, they will maintain that immunity for at least a year or two. However, if the duration of the immunity is shorter, this could also impact the model.

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

Read more in The Jerusalem Post >>