Israel’s COVID-19 Success: Smart? Lucky? Or Just …Young?!

By Shlomo Maital

Israel is deemed to have had relative success in controlling the coronavirus pandemic. It has been counted among the ranks of South Korea, Austria and Taiwan, all of which acted rapidly and effectively, and as a result had relatively favorable statistics.

   However, a closer look at the data reveals a different picture.

           Source: Meirav Arlosoroff, The Marker, May 28/2020.    

A study by Prof. Zvi Eckstein, formerly deputy governor of the Bank of Israel, reaches the following conclusion. Israel and Austria had similar rates of infection — about 1,800 cases of COVID-19 per million inhabitants.  

   Israel had significantly lower death rates than the EU average (about 1%, compared with 6.3% for the EU), and lower than Austria, (4%). (See Figure above).

     However, Eckstein notes, Israel has significantly younger populations that EU nations, and than South Korea and Taiwan, owing to a relatively high fertility rate. In addition, the mortality rate from COVID-19 is particularly high among the elderly, over 65 and over 80. In many countries, most of the elderly are in homes for the aged, which have been notorious incubators for the coronavirus in many countries. In Israel, a relatively larger proportion of the elderly live in their own homes or with children. In Israel, as in the US, there have been tragic cases of infection and death in homes for the elderly, but proportionately fewer such homes limited these tragedies.

     So, was Israel smart? Lucky? Or, simply, does it have a younger population, less vulnerable? According to Eckstein, probably the latter. Perhaps this may shorten the very long line of political leaders and officials who would like to take credit.