Prof. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science said on Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic may be over by the middle of February but will take a heavy toll by then.
Segal, who developed Weizmann Institute's prediction model for the spread of coronavirus, said that coronavirus morbidity is expected to peak nationwide in three weeks if authorities use the country's general lockdown to bolster vaccination for the disease.
"A lockdown serves two purposes – reducing infections and facilitating inoculations," Segal said. "If the vaccination rate reaches 100,000 shots administered weekly, cases will peak in about three weeks with about 900 patients hospitalized in serious condition and 1,000 more deaths until March. However, we are not expected to see any more serious coronavirus cases and deaths by mid-February.
"There are 1.4 million people over the age of 60 in Israel who are the risk group. If we keep a good pace, we can vaccinate the entire risk group in the next two weeks. We know that about 10 days after inoculation, the first dose of the vaccine already has a significant effect in reducing morbidity. That means that three weeks from now we will see a very sharp decline in serious cases."
Segal also said that Israel's third nationwide lockdown, which came into effect on Sunday, could have been avoided using differential lockdowns and stricter enforcement of health regulations on the holiday of Hanukkah.
He added that the vaccines serve as a tiebreaker that would allow the education system to remain open despite the spike in COVID-19 cases without straining the country's health system.