TEL AVIV – Israel was ranked the safest country to be in during the pandemic, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement citing statistics from the Deep Knowledge Group (DKG).
Coming in first place with a ranking of 619, Israel was closely followed by Singapore which scored 600, DKG’s website said.
New Zealand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Hungary, Austria, Germany, and Greenland also came in the top ten.
The United States came in 27th on the list with a score of 140. The country deemed the least safe to be in was India, with a score of 39.48.
It did not specify what factors went into the ranking.
According to its website, the Deep Knowledge Group is a consortium of commercial and non-profit organizations active on many fronts in the realm of DeepTech and Frontier Technologies (AI, Longevity, FinTech, GovTech, InvestTech), ranging from scientific research to investment, entrepreneurship, analytics, media, and philanthropy.
In an interview published in the Times of Israel Tuesday, a U.S. data and medical expert told the said Israel was “right on target” in its response to the pandemic.
“Social distancing, travel restrictions, the testing and the hospital preparedness, the national response has all been very good,” Dr. Martin Zand said.
According to the report, Zand, a practicing physician and the senior associate dean for clinical research at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York, is tackling the pandemic from multiple angles.
Zand’s recent visit to Israel coincided with the diagnoses of the first coronavirus cases.
He was more critical of the U.S.’ response to the pandemic, pointing to a “national shortage of a whole variety of supplies for COVID-19 testing.”
American-British-Israeli biophysicist and Nobel Laureate Michael Levitt earlier this month praised Israel for slowing down the virus’ spread with early preventative measures.
Levitt, who teaches structural biology at Stanford University and spends much of his time in Tel Aviv as well as in China, became a household name in the Asian nation after accurately predicting the slowdown of the country’s coronavirus epidemic and sending waves of hope among the Chinese.
The reason for the slowdown is that exponential models wrongly assume that people with the virus will continue to infect others at a steady rate, leading to disaster.
“In exponential growth models, you assume that new people can be infected every day, because you keep meeting new people,” Levitt said. “But, if you consider your own social circle, you basically meet the same people every day. You can meet new people on public transportation, for example; but even on the bus, after some time most passengers will either be infected or immune,” he told Calcalist in an interview.
However, he added global precautions were necessary to keep the spread in check.
“You don’t hug every person you meet on the street now, and you’ll avoid meeting face to face with someone that has a cold, like we did,” Levitt said. “The more you adhere, the more you can keep infection in check. So, under these circumstances, a carrier will only infect 1.5 people every three days and the rate will keep going down.”
Soroka Medical Center head and former director-general of the Health Ministry, Prof. Gabriel Barbash, expressed cautious optimism about Israel’s results in curbing the spread of the virus.
Barbash said the past six days have shown a downward trend in the virus’s spread.
“The public needs to know that there is a reward for its suffering,” he said.
He noted that there have been far more tests being administered than earlier in the month but that the results were not in correlation to the ratio shown two weeks ago.
However, he slammed the government for failing to test arrivals into the country from the U.S. and other virus hotspots.
“Everything we’ve achieved up until now will be lost,” he said.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu reversed the decision and all arrivals into the country were ordered to go into quarantine in hotels.
Director-General of the Health Ministry Moshe Bar Siman Tov also expressed cautious optimism in the slowdown but said the Jewish festival of Passover next week would present a problem if people were not careful.
“We hope that this trendline will continue through Passover and that after the holiday we will be able to return to life,” he said. “We are watching the numbers and fear there will be an increase of infections around the holidays.”
Meanwhile, the director-general of the Israel Institute for Biological Research told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday that “significant progress” was being made in the defense institute’s efforts in developing a vaccine against COVID-19 and will soon start testing on animals, a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.
The Health Ministry on Tuesday announced that there were 5,591 confirmed cases of the virus. 91 were in serious condition, of which 74 were attached to ventilators. Twenty Israelis have died from the virus, including a 49-year-old mother to four-year-old twins. 225 people have recovered from the virus.