American-British-Israeli biophysicist Nobel Prize winner Michael Levitt, who accurately predicted the coronavirus (COVID-19) slowdown in China, said Wednesday that Italy is nearing its own slowdown in infection rates and predicted Israel will have no more than ten deaths from the virus.
“Italy is already half way through the disease,” the biophysicist said during a radio interview Wednesday, The Jerusalem Post reported. “There has been a decrease in growth in the number of deaths in Italy in the past 2-3 days.”
Levitt noted that coronavirus tests in South Korea “are 10 times more sensitive than in Italy.”
“If Italy measured cases like Korea, there would have been 10 times more cases,” he said, suggesting Italy’s fatality rate is likely lower than reported.
“South Korea is already in the slow-down phase, he said, and Italy is nearing the same point,” the Nobel Prize winner explained, according to The Jerusalem Post.
“To put things in proportion, the number of deaths of coronavirus in Italy is 10% of the number of deaths of influenza in the country between 2016-2017,” Levitt added.
With regard to Israel, Levitt endorsed precautions being taken against the virus, but noted said there is still “unjustified panic.”
“There is a lot of unjustified panic in Israel. I don’t believe the numbers here, everything is politics, not math,” he said, adding: “I will be surprised if number of deaths in Israel surpasses ten, and even five now with the restrictions.”
Levitt noted that the numbers regarding coronavirus testing are not “made up,” “but because the definition of a case in Israel keeps changing and it’s hard to evaluate the numbers that way.”
Speaking to Calcalist on Friday, Levitt suggested the virus is not as contagious as some have contended, highlighting the infection rate on the jam-packed Diamond Princess cruise ship (emphasis added):
The Diamond Princess was the worst case scenario, according to Levitt. “If you compare the ship to a country—we are talking 250,000 people crowded into one square kilometer, which is horribly crowded. It is four times the crowding in Hong Kong. It is as if the entire Isaeli population was crammed into 30 square kilometers.” Furthermore, he said, the ship had a central air conditioning and heating system and a communal dining room. “Those are extremely comfortable conditions for the virus and still, only 20% were infected. It is a lot, but pretty similar to the infection rate of the common flu.”
“It is a known fact that the flu mostly kills the elderly—around three-quarters of flu mortalities are people over 65,” Levitt told Calcalist.
The biophysicist noted of Italy’s older population as a contributing factor to their coronavirus fatalities, adding: “Italian culture is very warm, and Italians have a very rich social life. For these reasons, it is important to keep people apart and prevent sick people from coming into contact with healthy people.”
Levitt stressed that the world should resist panicking by outlining past severe flu seasons in the United States, while also stressing the need for precautions.
“[T]here are years when flu is raging, like in the U.S. in 2017, when there were three times the regular number of mortalities,” he said. “And still, we did not panic. That is my message: you need to think of corona like a severe flu. It is four to eight times as strong as a common flu, and yet, most people will remain healthy and humanity will survive.”
“Currently, I am most worried about the U.S. It must isolate as many people as possible to buy time for preparations,” Levitt said. “Otherwise, it can end up in a situation where 20,000 infected people will descend on the nearest hospital at the same time and the healthcare system will collapse.”