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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.

Why Don’t Kids Get COVID-19?

 By Shlomo Maital

  Why does the COVID-19 virus afflict us seniors, but small children seem immune?

Today’s Haaretz daily has an interesting article by science writer Asaf Ronal, addressing this question.

   First, the data, from Worldometers.   The probability of death from COVID-19, by age group:   21.9% of those 80+, 8% for those 70-79, 3.6% for those 60-69, 1.3% for those 50-59, 0.4% for those 40-49, 0.2% for those 30-39, 0.2% for those 20-29, 0.2% for those 10-19….. and, amazingly, zero %, for those 0-9. (No known fatalities, among the world’s 180,000 cases, for young children)!.


   Here are the five main hypotheses.

  1. Young kids have more flexible, adaptable immune systems, better able to adapt to new diseases, because this is what kids’ immune systems are learning to do from the start.
  2. Young kids have a much smaller number of ‘damaged’ immune cells…such cells are more susceptible to the invasion of COVID-19 clever viruses, whose spikes poke into cells and invade them.
  3. Young kids’ cells have far fewer ‘receptors’, that viruses use to penetrate them and reproduce inside them.
  4. Young kids’ lungs have surface membranes that are far less likely or susceptible to ‘housing’ the virus and enabling them to reproduce there.
  5. Young kids still do not have the sex hormones, that may induce proteins in human cells that help the viruses reproduce, when they get inside those cells.


   We don’t know which, if any, of these theories is the right one. One day, maybe soon, we will find out – and perhaps that will help us old seniors as well.

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital