An estimated 10% to 20% of Israelis who have tested positive have been infected with the British variant of Covid-19, a development could seriously delay the country’s projected exit from the current lockdown.
The daunting revelation was made public by coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash on Sunday in a press briefing.
“Before the mutation came into the picture, we thought that we would leave this closure fast – faster than the previous lockdowns,” Ash said. “The mutation brought another perspective and now have to think how to open the economy with this in mind.”
The duration of the lockdown was set at two weeks, but that could be extended.
Ash also noted that whereas until now the Health Ministry was using a reproduction rate (R) of one to determine the safety of ending a lockdown, “if we see that it does not go under one then we need to decide if we are willing to accept the increase in infection if the serious cases are dropping.
“Our strategy is to inoculate the people who are at the highest risk, so we can open the economy even if the number of infected has still not gone down,” Ash said.
Regarding the South African variant, he confirmed that four cases were discovered over the weekend.
As to whether the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines obtained by Israel will be effective against it, Ash cited mixed results in two small studies, with more data needed to draw conclusions.
“We still do not know the answer for sure,” Ash said.