Israel seeking to avert worst-case scenario of 21,600 virus deaths – report
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Study said central to ministry's current coronavirus policy

Israel seeking to avert worst-case scenario of 21,600 virus deaths – report

Mathematical model prepared for Health Ministry says as many as 1,440,000 Israelis could be infected without containment measures

Workers inside a building at Tel HaShomer Hospital which was converted to receive Israelis who were under quarantine on the cruise ship Diamond Princess in Japan due to the spread of the coronavirus, February 20, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Workers inside a building at Tel HaShomer Hospital which was converted to receive Israelis who were under quarantine on the cruise ship Diamond Princess in Japan due to the spread of the coronavirus, February 20, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The number of Israelis carrying the coronavirus could reach as high as 80 percent of the population, with 1,440,000 people falling ill and 21,600 deaths, in a worst-case scenario where the disease is left unchecked and each patient infects two others.

The scenario was published Tuesday by the Hebrew financial daily The Marker and comes from a report prepared for the Health Ministry by Dr. Amit Huppert and Dr. Rami Ya’ari of the Gertner Institute for the study of epidemiology and health policy, and Haggai Katriel, associate professor of applied mathematics at the Braude College of Engineering.

The study, which according to The Marker was one of the main documents used by the Health Ministry to formulate its policy to combat the spread of the coronavirus, employed mathematical models to predict possible outcomes.

Four scenarios were presented: best-case, worst-case, and two interim possibilities. In the best-case scenario, each infected person infected 1.2 other people, resulting in 32 percent of the population infected, with 576,000 falling ill. This would result in 108,000 severe and critical cases, and 8,600 deaths overall. The height of the outbreak would see 130 critical cases per day with 4,000 hospital beds occupied and 1,300 beds required in intensive care units.

A Magen David Adom paramedic wearing protective gear as a preventive measure against the coronavirus, outside a special emergency call center in Kiryat Ono, February 26, 2020. (Flash90)

In a scenario in which each infected person infected another 1.35 people, 47% of the population would be infected, with 846,000 people falling ill. This would result in 159,000 severe and critical cases and 12,700 deaths. The height of the outbreak would see 340 critical cases per day with 10,000 hospital beds occupied and 3,500 beds required in intensive care.

In a scenario in which each infected person infected another 1.5 people, 58% of the population would become infected, with 1,044,000 people falling ill. This would result in 196,000 severe and critical cases and 15,700 deaths. At the height of the outbreak there would be 580 critical cases per day with 17,000 hospital beds occupied at the height of the outbreak and 5,700 beds required in intensive care.

In the worst-case scenario, each infected person would infect two others. In total 80% of the population would be infected, resulting in 1,440,000 people falling ill. This would result in 270,000 severe and critical cases, with 21,600 deaths. The height of the outbreak would see 1,450 critical cases per day with 42,500 hospital beds occupied and 1,400 beds required in intensive care units.

A workers disinfects a shop in Jerusalem, on March 15, 2020, as part of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

While exact figures are not yet available, scientists have already determined that a large cohort of infections are asymptomatic or only show very mild symptoms.

CNN reported Tuesday that Dr. Sandra Ciesek, director of the Institute of Medical Virology in Frankfurt, Germany, tested 24 passengers who had flown in from Israel and that seven of the 24 passengers tested positive for coronavirus. Of those, four had no symptoms, and Ciesek found that the viral load of the specimens from the asymptomatic patients was higher than the viral load of the specimens from the three patients who did have symptoms.

According to the latest figures published by the Health Ministry, as of 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, 304 people are known to have been infected with the virus. Of those, 284 have mild symptoms, 11 have moderate symptoms, and four are classified as severe. As yet, there have been no deaths from the virus in Israel.

Israel’s health system already operates at close to capacity with an average hospital bed occupancy rate of 94%, versus an average of 75% in OECD countries, according to a report published by the Taub Center in 2019.

The IDF Home Front Command has prepared three hotels in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa to take in coronavirus patients with mild symptoms in order to ease pressure on hospitals.

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