Ben Gurion study predicts Israel only weeks away from herd immunity

Researcher says coronavirus infection rate should start dropping within weeks

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A new study conducted by Ben Gurion University predicts Israel will reach a state of herd immunity against the coronavirus in the coming weeks, Hamodia reported Sunday.

Herd immunity occurs when a high enough percentage of the population has already contracted a disease and recovered from it, giving them enough antibodies in their systems so that the rate of new infections drops as more people gain immunity.

Prof. Mark Last of Ben Gurion University is not a doctor of medicine, but instead is an expert in the field of “medical informatics,” using the power of computer and information science to optimize medical care.

Last says his analysis shows that Israel’s coronavirus infection rate is about to decline. According to his figures, another national lockdown is not necessary if the government maintains current restrictions and no new major outbreaks occur from changes like the opening of the school year this week.

“If there is no unusual outbreak because of the return to school or the [upcoming Jewish holidays], then the infection rate will start dropping,” Last said. “According to my calculations, we need 1.16 million people with antibodies in order to achieve herd immunity and we are very close to that number,” he said.

In June, the first serological survey showed that the national infection rate then was 2.5 percent indicating some 200,000 Israelis had been infected at the time, but most had few or no symptoms. Since then another 86,000 Israelis have tested positive, most likely exposing several hundred thousand more Israelis to the disease.

Last says his model analyzed the available data and he predicts that the infection rate that peaked before the weekend at just over 2,000 confirmed cases a day will start to go down sometime in the second half of September.

“We cannot know the actual number of cases of infection unless we test the entire population every day,” Last said. “Initial serological tests indicate the ratio of confirmed cases to actual cases is about 1 to 10. Using those numbers, we now have slightly above one million people with antibodies in Israel and we need at least 1.2 million.”

Last is in agreement with government officials who say that another lockdown is not needed because social distancing and the gathering herd immunity will soon produce a reduction in the infection rate.

“We are heading in the right direction, but it is important not to relax our restrictions or get overconfident,” Last warned, estimating by the end of September an additional 500 Israelis will likely die from the virus and bring the death toll up to 1,400.