Ten days after it began, the national lockdown is showing no noticeable effect, according to a report by the Hebrew University presented to the coronavirus cabinet on Wednesday.
The report was presented by professors Yinon Ashkenazy, Doron Gazit and Nadav Katz from the Racah Institute of Physics, and professors Ronit Calderon-Margalit and Ran Nir-Paz from The Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine.
No significant slowing in the R number has been recorded. The number, which is how many people an infected person will infect, is however expected to drop in the coming weeks.An R factor of one means that on average every person who is infected will infect one other person. If R is greater than one, the outbreak is growing; if R is less than one, it is shrinking.
The professors believe that the lack of effect is due to infections occurring at home, and that an extension of the lockdown will definitely be necessary in order to have enough of an impact.
The report warned that movement during this lockdown has dropped less than it did in the first one in spring, raising concerns that it could have little effect unless enforcement is increased and the public follows regulations more strictly.The Health Ministry reported 4,953 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday with a new total of 239,806 infected since the outbreak. Among the sick are some 823 patients who are in serious condition, including 205 who are intubated. The death toll stands at 1,547.
The Hebrew University experts told the coronavirus cabinet that the goal in the short term is to get to a R number below 0.9 and to keep it there, with the long-term goal being to reach a situation where the virus can be lived with through quarantine and cutting chains of infection.
Arriving to a R number below 0.9 will allow the suppression of the outbreak within about three weeks.
A return to school outside of red zones in younger grades and a capsule system with staff separated can be considered in the meantime, along with the renewal of economic activity without gatherings in closed areas similar to the plan for red zones, according to the experts.
A return to routine needs to happen on a local basis and according to the traffic light plan, they stressed, adding that large events should not be renewed in the near future.
The professors stated that the return to routine needs to take place while carefully considering the number of infections per day; the R number; the percentage of positive infections in each region; the number of moderately and seriously ill patients along with rises or falls in this number; the number of red zones and sources of infection; and the time it takes to identify sources of infection.The exit from the lockdown and return to the traffic light program could take until December, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned at the coronavirus cabinet meeting.
The number of moderately and seriously ill patients is expected to continue to rapidly rise in the coming days and weeks, according to a model by the experts. The model predicts that the number of serious cases will only begin to significantly drop after October 16.
While the rate of increase is expected to slow as the mortality of the outbreak increases, no significant slowing is expected. The mortality in Israel is higher than the model predicted, while the number of serious cases about matches up with the model.
The percentage of moderately and seriously ill patients who have died rose during September as the time spent in hospitalization for patients who died dropped significantly. The Hebrew University report stated that this indicates a possible drop in the survival ability of the health system, either due to a failure to arrive for treatment or difficulties with treatment.