Mathematician and former general Prof Isaac Ben Israel, head of the Security Studies program in Tel Aviv University and the chairman of the National Council for Research and Development, appears on Channel 12 (Hebrew) to present a maverick view of the world’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
He describes research that he has conducted with a fellow professor, which he says shows that the number of new cases of the virus peaks after about 40 days and declines to near zero after 70 days, no matter where in the world it strikes and no matter whether countries shut down their economies or not.
While he supports social distancing, he says the widespread shuttering of economies worldwide is a demonstrable error. In Israel’s case, he notes, about 140 people normally die every day. To have shuttered much of the economy because of a virus that is killing one or two a day is a radical error that is unnecessarily costing Israel 20% of its GDP, he charges.
Prof Gabi Barbash, the former Health Ministry director general who is Channel 12’s resident medical expert, insists Ben Israel is mistaken, and that the death tolls would have been far higher if Israel and other countries had not taken the steps they did.
But Ben Israel says the figures — notably from countries, such as Singapore, Taiwan, and Sweden, which did not take such radical measures to shutter their economies — prove his point.
High death tolls in some countries are a factor of their healthcare systems being overwhelmed, he acknowledges. When Barbash cites New York as one example of an overwhelmed healthcare system, and argues that only radical measures are preventing worse crises worldwide, Ben Israel says the latest indications from New York are that the strain on the healthcare system is starting to recede — in line with his statistics that show daily new cases figures peaking and starting to fall after 40 days.
Barbash, speaking after Ben Israel has left the studio, insists that “we’re going to be living with the coronavirus for the next year.”
He later says: “I strongly urge that we not let mathematicians — who know nothing about biology — determine when we lift the lockdown.”