A report submitted last week by a team of experts appointed by Israel’s National Security Council presented what it said were the necessary preconditions for exiting the nationwide lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, cautioning that returning to normal economic activity too soon could lead to another outbreak and the collapse of the public healthcare system.

According to the report, the main precondition for returning to normal is a drop in the infection rate, to 10 new patients per day, with the lockdown being reimposed if the number of infections reaches 40 people per day.

As of Sunday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide stood at 10,878, with 103 fatalities. More than 1,300 have recovered from the disease, according to the latest Health Ministry figures.

“It will be possible to gradually ease the social distancing policies, and gradually return to a functioning economy, only after a decrease in the rate of new patients [excluding those returning from abroad] to about 10 per day. Dropping to this rate is necessary to ensure a high level of certainty that we will be able to block a new outbreak without having to re-enact stringent social isolation measures,” the report said.

The report added that it would be impossible to lift restrictions in certain parts of the country while the rate of infection remains high in other parts.

The “golden number” of 10 newly diagnosed patients a day was determined to create a safe margin of error that will prevent the collapse of the public healthcare system in Israel. With that, if another outbreak occurs, it will be feasible to tackle it on a regional basis, assuming it can be measured sufficiently per region, according to the report.

“To avoid the need to reinstate countrywide restrictions in the case of a new outbreak, it is imperative to be able to measure the rate of infections in each area separately,” said the report.

To stop a new outbreak from occurring, the experts also noted the need to improve the epidemiological research.

“This effort is similar to the effort invested in locating lone-wolf terrorists,” the report said. “The ability to prevent infectious situations—and if they occurred to find and isolate them quickly—is critical for keeping the system in a state of dynamic balance.”

Another necessary precondition for stunting an outbreak after the quarantine restrictions are lifted is to administer 10,000 lab tests per day, according to the report.

According to the NSC, exiting the nationwide quarantine will have to be done in two-week intervals to examine the effect of each step of easing restrictions. The report added that there will “also be a need to continue managing the pandemic in this manner until a vaccine is developed, which could take several years.”

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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