Coronavirus closure is ‘nuclear bomb’ - German researcher

“The higher the number of people surrounding the infected person, the more the virus will spread,” explained Prof. Andrei Sommer.

Police officers enforcing third lockdown on inter-city roads  (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
Police officers enforcing third lockdown on inter-city roads
Partial lockdowns could lead to an explosion in coronavirus cases, a top German researcher has told The Jerusalem Post.
If more people congregate in fewer places in a more concentrated time period, they are more likely to pass on the virus, said Prof. Andrei Sommer, a visiting professor at Isra University in Jordan and a former member of the University of Ulm, in an interview with the Post.
His statements come as the Health Ministry is considering the effectiveness of the closure due to rising infection, but also against the backdrop of two previous partial closures that proved essential in bringing down the country’s morbidity.
He likened the results of partial lockdowns to a nuclear explosion.
The immense destructive force of an atomic weapon is caused by a sudden release of energy when the nucleus of the fissile elements that make up a bomb’s core are split, according to the Atomic Heritage Foundation in an article about the science behind the atomic bomb. In order to detonate an atomic weapon, you need a critical mass of fissile material – and the more you have, the greater the chance of causing an explosion.
“The critical mass is the number of people in a store at a certain time, which in a partial lockdown is compressed,” Sommer explained. “The neutrons are the people among them who are infected.
“The higher the number of people surrounding the infected person, the more the virus will spread,” he continued, “and each one who is newly infected, infects other people – and this is the chain reaction in the nuclear bomb.”
Prof. Andrei Sommer (Credit: Courtesy)Prof. Andrei Sommer (Credit: Courtesy)
According to Sommer, the root cause of the dramatic increase in coronavirus infections in Germany and in Israel in recent weeks was the partial lockdown.
“By closing all [types of] shops except for three – supermarkets, gas stations and pharmacies – you are putting more people into smaller spaces per day,” Sommer said of the situation in his hometown.
Germany is under a partial lockdown until January 10, with most shops closed along with schools, restaurants, and cultural and leisure facilities – a situation similar to Israel’s.
Sommer said that when he drives through Ulm, he sees many cars in front of the supermarket early in the morning – many more than he would have seen before the closure.
“Usually, people are distributed among a number of shops,” he said. “Now, they are restricted to only a few, where the supermarket plays the most important role.”
According to Sommer, if 75 people instead of 25 people are in the market at 8 a.m., then the chance of being infected simply by being close to an infected person increases dramatically. Likewise, if 200,000 people are distributed among 20 shops, the number of people per shop is smaller compared to when 200,000 people are distributed among three.
The second factor is time.
IN GERMANY, authorities have required people to stay at home from 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., depending on the area. Israel has considered instituting night curfews, but has not done so, both because health officials have warned they would be ineffective and because the attorney-general has questioned whether they would be legally viable.
With a night curfew “this means the time to finish shopping is now two or more hours shorter than before the lockdown, which aggravates the space factor,” Sommer added.
The number of coronavirus cases has continued to climb since the onset of the third lockdown on December 27. However, health officials have said the rising infection is still a result of Hanukkah, which culminated on December 18 and was marked by many large gatherings.
It takes around 10 days to see the result of these gatherings due to the virus’s incubation period, an average of five or six days up to 14.
Sommer is not the first to speak out against lockdowns. Last week, at a meeting of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, the Health Ministry argued that the state of emergency should be extended for another two months. The committee ultimately agreed, and it was extended through March 3 – but not before a heated debate that included a presentation by the Public Emergency Council for the Coronavirus Crisis presented by Prof. Zvi Bentwich, director of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Center for Emerging Diseases, Tropical Diseases and AIDS.
BENTWICH ARGUED that the Health Ministry’s policy of locking down is based on “erroneous data.” He said the country is not in a state of emergency and that the council “strongly opposes any attempt to use medical pretexts for violating individual rights and democracy… The declaration of a state of emergency does not contribute anything to the continued struggle with the virus.”
The group’s position paper added that “many studies have found that measures to prevent the spread of the virus cause more serious harm than the virus itself.”
The state of emergency allows the government to make decisions about freedom of movement and other lockdown policies to help keep the virus in check.
Similarly, the Commonsense Model designed by a group of Israeli scientists and physicians calls for the government to abstain from nationwide restrictions and rather, focus protective measures on the at-risk population.
The Commonsense Model was conceived by three Tel Aviv University professors: Udi Kimron, Ariel Munitz and Motti Gerlic. Around 150 other scientists and doctors back the model.
However, as noted, both the first and second nation-wide lockdowns drastically reduced infection in the country in a few short weeks, likely saving many lives. The Health Ministry has argued that the current and third lockdown is less effective than previous lockdowns so far because it is too flexible – and much of the public is not adhering to the rules.