Exit strategyIsraeli experts propose radical post-corona exit strategy

By Abigail Klein Leichman

Published 21 May 2020

The biggest worry as we start emerging from isolation in the COVID-19 pandemic: How do we return to schools and businesses without triggering a fresh outbreak? Israeli mathematicians suggest a staggered approach to reenter public places and workplaces without causing a new outbreak.

The biggest worry as we start emerging from isolation in the COVID-19 pandemic: How do we return to schools and businesses without triggering a fresh outbreak?

In many ways, this is a numbers game. In Israel, we’re seeing some strong reentry strategies coming from mathematicians. Their recommendations aren’t only for their home country.

On May 11, the New York Times featured an opinion piece, “10-4: How to Reopen the Economy by Exploiting the Coronavirus’s Weak Spot,” by Weizmann Institute of Science computational and systems biology professors Uri Alon and Ron Milo and Tel Aviv University economist Prof. Eran Yashiv.

Their proposed “10-4” cyclical routine is built around the three-day window between the time a person becomes infected with the novel coronavirus and the time that person can infect others.

People would go to work or school for four days a week every two weeks, followed by 10 days of home lockdown. Ideally, the population would be split into two groups alternating weeks, with children and parents going to work and school on the same four days.

“Models we created at the Weizmann Institute in Israel predict that this two-week … 10-4 cycle could suppress the epidemic while allowing sustainable economic activity,” they explain.

Intermittent Lockdown
In late March, Weizmann’s Alon first proposed the intermittent lockdown idea.

“Think of dieting. You can fast for two months and lose weight, but you will probably die. Even if you survive, you will quickly gain weight again. Similarly, a two-month lockdown will suppress the coronavirus, but it will kill the economy. Lockdown will push hundreds of millions of people globally into unemployment and poverty,” Alon said.

“At the end of each lockdown, remaining patients will cause a resurge in the epidemic, forcing another lockdown. This is the well-known yo-yo effect, with the number of coronavirus patients going up and down. At the same time, the global economy will be hit hard and hundreds of millions will go hungry. When the dust settles, more people will have died of hunger than of the coronavirus.”

An epidemiological model developed by Alon with graduate students Omer Karin and Yael Korem-Kohanim and senior engineer Boaz Dudovich suggested five days of lockdown and two days of work every week –or even better, a four-day work/10-day lockdown cycle.

“In this way, the number of people infected by each infectious person drops below one – the magic number that causes the epidemic to decline,” he said.