As Israel approaches its second lockdown, let us take a look at lockdowns and their effects. Lockdowns have been shown to significantly lower the R0 (the mathematical term that indicates how contagious an infectious disease is) (by 81% on average), and always lowered it to less than 1. However, it should be noted that new cases generally continue to grow until 10-20 days after the lockdowns are imposed, albeit more slowly. So, while being an effective short-term tool if used for a long enough period of time, it is by no means a cure for the disease. If the lockdown lasts only two weeks, it will likely not have enough of a significant effect to warrant the economic price.
In Israel, as all major infection statistics are spiraling out of control (record numbers in daily infections, critically ill, and deaths), hospitals are filling up, and health care workers are being overworked, there are no signs of slowing down. The lockdown should buy us time, which must be used to make long-term improvements in handling the virus. Examples of the improvements are epidemiology surveys and to finish creating the army unit which will be in charge of contact tracing, which will hopefully quickly catch infection chains.
Another benefit of the lockdown is preventative. We have seen that holidays are a time when people gather and interact much more. The first major outbreaks in Israel came following Purim. During the upcoming Holy Days, even non-religious individuals come to synagogues and spend time with their extended families, which has the potential to cause many more wide-spread outbreaks, and start a new wave before this one is finished. A lockdown will severely limit those outbreaks as it will lessen the number and scope of the gatherings.
It is important that the lockdown not be delayed, as studies have shown that the more lockdowns are delayed, the higher the number of daily deaths at the same point of the outbreaks. It is imperative to avoid a similar situation to the one that happened in Italy. There, the health system became extremely overburdened, so they couldn’t properly treat neither COVID nor other medical needs. If that happens, many cases will likely become more severe due to a lack of treatment, further taxing the system, and many of the patients who would have otherwise survived, would not. The country is trying to stop the flooding of the hospitals before it happens.
In conclusion, unfortunately, a lockdown seems necessary at this point in time. It is going to be difficult and costly, and frankly it probably could have been avoided if the big 3 rules had been followed: mask wearing, hand sanitizing, and social distancing. However hard it may be, if done right, it is what we need right now.
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Thank you for the zoom (and all your updates). It was great. I wish the news was like that. Straight forward, factual, unemotional. Bravo to both of you ladies!!