5.5% of Israelis had coronavirus - serological survey results

Some 55,000 Israelis from throughout the country of various sexes, ages and religions were sampled for the survey.

Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy Dr. Sharon Elrai-Price (photo credit: EYAL BASON)
Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy Dr. Sharon Elrai-Price
(photo credit: EYAL BASON)
Around 5.5% of the Israeli population has had coronavirus, according to the results of the national serological survey that were released Thursday by the Health Ministry.
The survey, conducted between July and September 2020 was meant to help assess the presence of antibodies to the novel coronavirus in the Israeli population. Some 55,000 Israelis from throughout the country of various sexes, ages and religions were sampled.
“Israel is one of the first countries in the world to conduct a national serological survey,” said Health Minister Yuli Edelstein. “The survey is part of the Health Ministry’s efforts to find more innovative methods to test for coronavirus.”
However, the majority of the data was based on people screened in July, before the September spike in infection. As such, according to Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the head of Public Health, “It is difficult to assess what the prevalence is currently in the population. We are already planning to do the next survey.”
Speaking at a briefing from the Health Ministry’s coronavirus headquarters in Airport City, she said that a new round of serological screenings will begin next week.
“There is no doubt that we are much more than 5.5%.; But as a rough estimate, I would say the number is no more than 20%. We are very far from her immunity.”
The Health Ministry said in a release earlier Thursday that a high level of antibodies in the blood does not necessarily indicate long-term immunity, as more research on this subject still needs to be conducted.
The survey also found that a higher percentage of men (4.9%) than women (3.1%) had coronavirus. Some 8.1% of children between the ages of 10 and 18 have been infected.
Jerusalem had the highest percentage of sick people (9.5%), inline with it also having the highest number of known patients throughout the pandemic. The survey showed that around 2.2% of Tel Avivians were infected and 1.1% of Haifa residents. The rate in the North appears to be 1.9%, according to the survey.
More Jewish than non-Jewish people have had the virus - 3.6% in Jewish localities versus 2.1% in non-Jewish localities. The presence in ultra-Orthodox localities was about five times higher than in non-Orthodox localities.
Finally, areas defined as red zones in the first wave had four times more people with antibodies than other non-red localities.
The nationwide survey is the second serological survey done in Israel. An earlier one was conducted in the haredi city of Bnei Brak.
During the briefing, Alroy-Preis talked about the current rate of infection and how it could impact Israel’s exit from the lockdown.
She explained that at the start of the closure, around 65% of the country was red. Now that number is 40%.
“This means that the restrictions work,” Alroy-Preis said. “Ten days after the lockdown, we can see its effects.”
She said that an exit strategy will be staged and that and that at least in the first two or three phases, “the traffic-light program will not be activated. We will treat the whole country like a red zone.”
On Thursday, the Health Ministry reported that 4,134 people were infected with the virus the day before. Some 863 people were in serious condition, including 241 who were intubated. The death toll rose to 1,864 - 27 people since midnight.
“It was necessary to take action to curb this disease,” Health Minister director-general Chezy Levy, who also spoke at the briefing, said.
He added that “despite statements made sometimes, the health system is not collapsing… It is no secret that we have reached high morbidity levels that have put a heavy burden on the hospital system and the community.
“We tried to do it through many means at the start of the current wave,” he continued. “We also brought the traffic light method. But it did not work and therefore restrictions were imposed.”
He said that the Health Ministry is aware of the economic and psychological impact of the closure, however, “we cannot afford for the infection rate to increase so that we can continue to treat every patient optimally.”