Israeli experts propose radical post-corona exit strategy

Alon suggested that the intermittent lockdown continue until the epidemic is contained through sufficient testing, effective treatment or a vaccine.

“Our main message is to open up the discussion on lockdown and point out that a well-designed smart lockdown strategy can suppress the epidemic and sustain the economy.”

Click here to read a paper by Alon and colleagues from Weizmann, Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University.

Invisible Spreaders
Alternating lockdowns also are championed by Bar-Ilan University Prof. Baruch Barzel, principal investigator of the university’s Data Science Institute and Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center.

The Barzel lab’s mathematical model calls for the general population to be split into two groups. Each group would alternate between lockdown and routine activity in weekly succession.

He says the combination of isolating virus spreaders and keeping up protective behaviors can help defeat the virus while sustaining socio-economic activity at a 50 percent level.

The main advantage of this strategy is that it isolates not just the sick, but also the majority of presymptomatic or asymptomatic “invisible spreaders.”

Barzel explained: “Consider an individual who became infected during their active week. They are now in their pre-symptomatic period – the most dangerous stage, in which they are invisible spreaders. According to the alternating lockdown routine, they are now scheduled to enter their lockdown phase.”

During their week at home, he reasons, invisible spreaders will most likely begin to exhibit symptoms and remain in isolation until full recovery.

“If following a week of lockdown they show no symptoms, they are most likely uninfected and can partake in social and professional activities during their active week.”

The Bar-Ilan simulation suggests that if the proportion of “defectors” – people who continue to be active during their lockdown phase or who hold essential positions and cannot be under lockdown – is kept at under 30 percent, viral spread could still be overcome.

Easy to Enforce?
Milo says a cyclical work-lockdown strategy is equitable, easy to understand and easy to enforce as part of a comprehensive exit strategy.

He suggests that countries try an alternating lockdown strategy as a pilot on a small scale in limited regions for a defined period of time – say, a month — and then reassess.

“We are in touch for example with officials in Peru who are interested in performing such a pilot study,” he tells ISRAEL21c.

“If infection rates grow, it can be adjusted to fewer workdays. Conversely, if things are going well, additional workdays can be added. In certain scenarios, only four or five lockdown days in each two-week cycle could still prevent resurgence. While it will be difficult to do for very long, the alternative of going back to full lockdown for an unknown length of time might be much worse.”

Milo recently headed a project to organize the flood of coronavirus information in an orderly framework. He worked with Weizmann grad student Yinon Bar-On and U.S. colleagues from Caltech and Berkeley.

After consolidating hundreds of findings about SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the foursome revealed that the virus is 96 percent identical to a coronavirus genome that infects bats, 91 percent identical to a coronavirus genome that infects scaly anteaters (pangolins), 80 percent identical to the SARS virus, 55 percent identical to the MERS virus and 50 percent identical to the coronavirus that causes common colds.

They also uncovered some good news: The virus’s mutation accumulation rate is relatively slow compared to influenza viruses. Milo said he’s cautiously optimistic that drugs and vaccines developed against COVID-19 will therefore prove durable in curbing outbreaks.

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. This article   is published courtesy of ISRAEL21.