The Israeli government is deliberating whether to go for another general lockdown or make do with local lockdowns based on a “traffic light” color system. Every business needs to plan their activity accordingly. What can we glean from recent statistics?
The R Factor:
In corona times, an important statistic is the R factor, where R stands for reproduction. If we know the R factor, we know the trend of the disease and businesses can surmise whether and where to employ people.
The reproduction factor (R) is the average number of secondary infections produced by a single infected person.
An R factor of 1 means that on average every person who is infected will infect 1 other person, meaning the total number of infections is stable. If R is greater than 1 the epidemic is growing, if R is less than 1 the epidemic is shrinking.
This is according to the UK government website. (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-r-number-in-the-uk#latest-r-number-and-growth-rate).
The R number in the UK stood at 0.9-1.1 on September 2.
In the US, data is issued by CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), at the Department of Health and Human Services. Total covid-19 cases in the USA stood at 6,004,443 on September 2, including 288,876 in the last 7 days, and total deaths 183,050. But no R factor is given (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases).
The John Hopkins University present graphs showing daily new cases in the US since the beginning of the year and the trend to date (https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/new-cases-50-states). For example, in New York State, daily new cases peaked at 10,824 on April 9 and are back down to 600-700 new cases per day. In California, daily new cases peaked at 11,604 on July 29 and have dropped to 4,000-5,000 per day.
The R factor is similar to daily cases but it helps forecast the upcoming future trend.
What about Israel?
In Israel, daily new confirmed cases and deaths are presented on a dashboard website of the Health Ministry (https://datadashboard.health.gov.il/COVID-19/general).
First, to recap on history using this dashboard, Israel experienced its first covid-19 wave from March 10 to May 1, this year, with 100 to 600 new confirmed cases per day. There followed a one month lull from May 2-31 with less than 100 confirmed cases per day, then a pick-up from 100 to 200 new cases in the three weeks from June 1 to 21.
The second wave began around June 22 when confirmed new cases skyrocketed from 300 to 2000 per day by July 21, and 3,141 on September 2.
Israel is now on a high plateau with around 2,000-3,000 new confirmed cases per day (compared with 700 in New York State and 1500 per day in the UK, both with bigger populations)). Israeli corona-related deaths are now running at 12-20 per day (21 on August 31).
The second wave therefore seems around three times as powerful as the first wave, but this may partly be due to more testing. The number of tests is now around 20,000-30,000 per day.
The Health Ministry lists cities with high covid-19 cases outright and rates per 10,000 people, including Jerusalem (19,170 cases, 29 per 10,000 people), Bnei Barak (10,256, 49), Ashdod (4164, 38), Tel-Aviv (5069, 15) Modiin Ilit (3779, 69) and Tira (918, 183).
How are the hospitals coping?
Hadasah, Barzilei and Shaarei Tsedek hospitals are running at 90%-100% of their covid-19 capacity Most others are running at 50%-90% capacity.
What about the R factor in Israel?
The Health Ministry dashboard makes no mention of the R factor. So we tried estimating our own draft R factor data. We took the Health Ministry daily new confirmed cases and assumed that covid-19 patients may infect more people between 5 and 14 days after testing positive. Then to allow for reduced testing on Shabbat and increased testing on Sundays, we took a 7 day rolling average to iron out weekend bumps. We tentatively estimate Israel might now have a national average R factor of around 1.3 – 1.4. When the pace of new cases was accelerating in July, we tentatively estimate the R factor was running at 1.7 – 2.4.
The pace is frightening. If there are 3,000 new cases per day now, an R factor of 1.3 suggests 30% more cases after 2 weeks, and perhaps 30,000 cases after 20 weeks, if this continues unchecked. This is like compound interest gone mad.
What are the implications?
The Covid-19 Project Director Professor Ronni Gamzu, and the government will have to decide whether to let the present level of around 2,000-3,000 daily new cases continue for the sake of business and employment. They are thought to be considering a general lockdown over the Tishri holidays to reduce the daily number of new cases and the R factor. Don’t be too surprised if that happens….
Is your business prepared for another general lockdown? Consider activities, staffing, cash flow and whether to focus on e-commerce, among other things.
As always, consult experienced advisors in each country at an early stage in specific cases.