Israel can expect 10,000 coronavirus infections by month’s end, disease researcher warns

Epidemiologist warns of explosive growth of coronavirus infections.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

One of Israel’s leading epidemiologists warned that the country should be ready for an explosive growth in the number of people infected by the coronavirus.

“It is important that the public understand that even if the public went into bomb shelters and didn’t emerge from there, by the end of the month of March we will be close to ten thousand (people infected),” Dr. Gabriel Barbash said in an interview Tuesday evening on Channel 12 news.

“What we are doing now will impact on April. What is going to happen (from now) until the end of March has already been determined,” said Barbash, a professor of epidemiology and preventative medicine at Tel Aviv University and former director general of the Ministry of Health.

Barbash’s number far exceeds the estimate given Tuesday by current Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov, who warned in a nationally televised press conference that Israel’s ability to prevent the high infection rates and deaths from coronavirus sweeping through countries like Italy and Spain depended heavily on the behavior of the public.

“We know if we don’t do anything, we’ll see an increase in the rate of numbers of sick people,” Bar Siman Tov said. “We will get to a situation of maybe hundreds of new sick people per day.”

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Although there have been no coronavirus deaths in Israel, Bar Siman Tov gave an ominous warning that fatalities from the worldwide pandemic were almost a certainty and that “in our scenarios there could be many thousands of Israeli citizens who will die from this disease.”

In the past few days the number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Israel more than doubled from 200 on Sunday to 427 as of Wednesday morning.

Addressing the nation before Bar Siman Tov gave his update, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Israelis that although the country had so far avoided serious levels of infection and fatalities, the coronavirus pandemic was expected to hit Israel hard in the coming days.

“I ask that you show discipline and responsibility,” Netanyahu said. “This is not child’s play. This is not a vacation. This is a matter of life and death

Barbash has solidly backed Netanyahu’s repeated calls for Israelis to stay at home and avoid contact, even between family members.

“The home quarantine seems to be the only effective measure we currently have against coronavirus,” Barbash said earlier in an interview with the Weizmann Institute of Science where he heads a program of scientists and physicians working on solutions to disease.

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“What we are trying to do is decrease the number of patients overall, and slow the number of new patients so as to enable the healthcare system to deal with small numbers of patients at any given time. We are trying to flatten the [infection rate] curve,” he said.