The Terrifying Coronavirus Prediction That Pushed Israel to Take Unprecedented Steps

How did Israel reach its decisions to impose measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus? One of the key documents that has influenced policymakers is a mathematical model that tries to predict the impact of the virus’ spread, how much time it will continue and how it will behave – assuming that the government doesn’t take steps to stop it.

– Israel’s coronavirus crisis could be Bibi’s swan song. Haaretz weekly podcast

Israel’s coronavirus crisis could be Bibi’s swan song. Haaretz weekly podcast

The model provides four rough scenarios for what could happen based on the rate the infection spreads before serious steps are taken. The figures range from a relatively low rate of contagion, under which each coronavirus sufferer infects 1.2 people on average, to a relatively high average of two people.

In each scenario, the model estimates the cost in terms of human life – the overall number of sick, the number of severe or critical cases, the number of deaths and the level of hospital facilities that will be needed in response.

Broadly speaking, it shows that the most important variable in controlling the epidemic is the rate of infection, and explains why the Health Ministry has been pressing for measures to enforce social distancing. The goal is to reduce the contagion rate to less than one, as China succeeded in doing. If Israel can do the same, the model’s worrying predictions can be avoided.

The model was developed by Dr. Amit Huppert, head of biostatistics and biomathematics of the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer; his colleague at Gertner, Dr. Rami Yaari; and Prof. Haggai Katriel of the ORT Braude College of Engineering’s mathematics department.

It should be stressed that this is only a mathematical model, not based on real life statistics. The rate of contagion and death has varied between countries, which means that predicting the trajectory of the epidemic isn’t easy. Not only have some countries succeeded better than others at controlling the spread of the virus, but local climate may play a role as well.

Moreover, the model is being constantly updated based on developments from around the world. The estimates seen by TheMarker were based on data as of March 5.