Michael Levitt. (APImages/Eric Risberg, File) (AP Images/Eric Risberg, File)

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Biophysicist Michael Levitt predicts as little as five and no more than 10 coronavirus deaths in Israel.

By United with Israel Staff

Israeli Nobel Prize winner Michael Levitt predicts the Jewish state will only face five and possibly up to 10 deaths from coronavirus (COVID-19). He made the bold statement during an interview with Kan’s Reshet Bet radio on Wednesday.

He credited Israel’s government for placing strong restrictions on citizens as one of the reasons for his optimistic prediction.

Due to variances and limitations in testing procedures, it is not clear how many people actually have coronavirus in Israel or worldwide. However, based on his evaluations of the spread and deaths of the illness globally, Levitt believes fear of coronavirus are disproportionate to the threat.

“I will be surprised if the number of deaths in Israel surpasses ten, and even five now with the restrictions,” he said in a Jerusalem Post report summarizing the Kan interview.

As of Thursday, there were over 500 confirmed cases in Israel. That relatively low number means Israel is “not on the world map for the disease,” Levitt noted. Thus far, there have been no registered deaths.

“The more you adhere [to government restrictions], the more you can keep the infection in check,” Levitt said, according to Calcalist. “So, under these circumstances, a carrier will only infect 1.5 people every three days and the rate will keep going down. The more severe the defensive measures taken, the more they will buy time to prepare for needed treatment and develop a vaccine.”

He not only credits the slowdown of the disease to government measures, individual improved hygiene and limiting physical contact but also believes that some people are naturally immune.

“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.”

Levitt pointed out that every passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship should have gotten sick based on the closed quarters, communal food sharing, and central air-conditioning and heating.

“Those are extremely comfortable conditions for the virus and still, only 20 percent were infected. It is a lot, but pretty similar to the infection rate of the common flu,” Levitt said.

Levitt is an American-British-Israeli biophysicist, mathematician and chemist who lives part-time in Tel Aviv. He won the 2013 Nobel Prize for chemistry.

News sites are taking note of his forecasts as he successfully predicted the slowdown of coronavirus infections in mainland China last month by studying the number of reported deaths in the country compared to those infected.