Our efforts to combat Covid-19 in Israel could be more effective if we examined the distinct, lifestyle-based transmission patterns set in motion by different population sectors.
The “traffic light” formula, which is currently used to measure the levels of COVID-19 dispersion in Israel, has several fundamental drawbacks. One of its main flaws is the lack of distinction made between the various sectors of the population and their style of living, which have a dramatic effect on the virus dispersion among the population. The world we live in today is borderless, in which the various communities are mixed. Hence, it is possible to identify the flowing patterns between cities, and with them the dispersion patterns of the virus.
In this paper we will introduce the “passage” model by looking at the infection rates in Israel’s three main sectors: the Arab community, the Ultra-Orthodox community, and the general population.
By analyzing the inter-sectoral and the cross-sectoral dispersion of COVID-19, we will realize that each of the three sectors paints a completely different picture, both in regard to the level of dispersion and the part they play in the different waves that occurred.
In our passage model, we focus on three types of COVID-19 transmissions: Transmission within households; transmission within towns (outside of households); and transmission between neighboring towns.
The Arab community in Israel is relatively isolated from the rest of the population in terms of passage, particularly in the north of Israel where they live in small towns. The movement or transit from these towns to other towns is little to none. Hence, there is almost no transmission between Arab communities and the other communities. This is why we record high infection rates within Arab communities, but the virus is rarely transmitted outside of their respective towns. Another reason behind the high inter-sectoral and low cross-sectoral transmission is that, unlike the other sectors, the Arab sector mostly uses private vehicles over public transit.
The Ultra-Orthodox community in Israel is only partially reclusive. It has a strong interaction with the mixed ultra-Orthodox towns. For instance, we identified a strong correlation between Bnei Brak and the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Ashdod. These interactions differ from the passage patterns in the general population, as the ultra-orthodox sector interflows with the general community via ultra-orthodox neighborhoods only. In addition, people in this community are heavy users of the public transportation system, which increases the potential for cross-sectoral transmission.
The general Israeli population is a central component of the COVID-19 dispersion in Israel. The general sector records high infection rates, and virus transmission originating from other cities forming up to 40% of the cases. It is important to mention that from the moment infection rates pass a certain point – with high inter-sectoral and cross-sectoral transmission – the dispersion is so high that lockdown is the only tool we currently possess to reduce it.
However, while the passage pattern between ultra-orthodox communities and mixed towns presents risks of cross-sectoral transmission, a possible conclusion is that a public transportation closure could be a more effective measure than a full lockdown in ultra-orthodox towns.
It’s not surprising to notice that virus transmission in “red” towns originates from other “red” towns, and that it is mainly dispersed within the same sector and community. In contrast, we have seen that residents in “yellow” and “green” towns mostly interact with residents from other towns, hence a third of the infection rates originating from outside of the town. Once more, following the logic demonstrated in our spread circle study, we realize that monitoring households in all three sectors is crucial if we seek to disrupt transmission within towns and communities.
The passage model introduced here provides us with a clearer picture of the infection characteristics and the transmission patterns set in motion by Israel’s different population sectors. This intel should be taken into account during the decision-making process in order to implement effective measures and avoid unnecessary restrictions or lockdowns – Something every community in Israel can agree on.