A high percentage of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Arab coronavirus patients infect their family members, a new report by the Health Ministry showed. At the same time, it demonstrated that many of the cases in these centers are concentrated within a few families.
In Bnei Brak, for example, which on April 13 – the date the data for the report published Friday was gathered – had 1,881 cases of coronavirus, 1,039 (55%) were cases in which at least two people from the same family were infected. In total, 353 families comprised the cities 1,881 cases.
Similarly, Jerusalem, which on April 13 had 2,105 cases of the novel virus, 993 or 47% were incidents of multiple cases in one family. In total, 358 families were infected.
The pattern is consistent across haredi cities and towns, where between 45% and close to 70% are cases of patients with nuclear family infections: Elad 65% of 245, Modi’in Illit 48% of 216; Beitar Illit 55% of 160, Kiryat Yearim 68% of 34.
Only Beit Shemesh and Tiberius reflected a lower percentage at 33% and 35%, respectively.
In the Arab sector, the pattern is similar or even more acute. In Umm al-Fahm 32 of 41 (78%) of cases are within nuclear families. The same situation can be found in Jisr az-Zarqa: 78% of 33 cases. In small communities such as Bir al-Maksur, Peki’in and Maghar, 100% of cases are within the same families.
Strikingly, Tel Aviv has only 39 families infected. However, the city had 437 sick people on April 13 – 84 more people than the number of families infected in Bnei Brak. In Tel Aviv, 22% of sick people have infected another person in their nuclear family.
Danny King, a senior physician at Meir Medical Center, explained that even though the majority of cases in haredi and Arab communities are within the same families, the chances of spreading the infection is still greater than in cities with a lower level of infection.
“These same people who are positive, until they were found to be positive and went into quarantine, were out there” and could have infected others, King said.
“Let’s say a Tel Aviv family of three people gets sick, they are likely to infect let’s say six people before they go into quarantine. A haredi or Arab family of six will infect 12 people before going into quarantine,” he said. “So, the potential for the Tel Aviv household to infect people is much lower than the haredi or Arab family.”
At the same time, he said that the country’s testing policy lends itself to highlighting the number of infections in haredi and Arab cities, which have been put on greater lockdown than the rest of the country because of their high number of patients.
Until recently, the Health Ministry was testing specifically people who had come in direct contact with a sick person. If you are testing a family of five or six people, you will likely have five or six sick people. If you are testing a family of three people, you will have three, King said.
This is even more so the case in the Arab community, where sometimes two, three and four generations live in the same household or very close by to one another, he continued.
“In my opinion, that guarantees why infection inside the family is so high,” he said. “It is very difficult to completely isolate from your family and sometimes it is almost impossible,” he said. “So, if you have three or four generations in the same household, that will cause infection inside household.”
It will also lead the Health Ministry to more easily find your sick family members.
The Health Ministry has tested 10,965 people out of Bnei Brak’s 195,298 people and 25,564 people out of Jerusalem’s 914,559. But it has tested only 13,326 in Tel Aviv, where the population is 450,192 – almost double Bnei Brak’s.
The good news is that in many cases, the people being infected within a nuclear family tend to be younger and less likely to experience a serious COVID-19 infection.
Of the 4,896 people that have at least two members of their family infected with the virus, according to the Health Ministry, 1,629 are under the age of 20. All but 46 people were under the age of 81.
The majority of people who have died in Israel from coronavirus have been over the age of 80.