Antibody Tests Show a Third in Israeli ultra-Orthodox Hot Spot Had Coronavirus

Despite findings based on a 3,500-strong sample survey, herd immunity in Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak does not appear imminent

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
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Outdoor Sukkot prayers in Bnei Brak, October 4, 2020.
Outdoor Sukkot prayers in Bnei Brak, October 4, 2020.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

Seroprevalence studies conducted in Bnei Brak from June to August showed that one-third of residents had been infected with the coronavirus. The survey of a random sample of 3,500 residents revealed antibodies in the blood of 14.6 percent.

When the survey, which is being published here for the first time, ended in early September, there were about 10,000 confirmed infections in the city. Since then the number has doubled, and today stands at about 22,000. This means that the number of carriers has also doubled, bringing the figure to 30 percent of the population.

HAARETZ PODCAST: A very close call for Netanyahu and Mossad chief at the White HouseCredit: Haaretz

On Tuesday a Zoom meeting was held by senior Health Ministry officials, members of the pandemic response team, experts from the Central Bureau of Statistics and from the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy.

Representatives from the Gertner Institute presented its theoretical analysis regarding the possibility of partial herd immunity that might allow some easing of the coronavirus restrictions.

Prayers held in a playground in Bnei Brak, October 4, 2020 Credit: Ofer Vaknin

However, experts are against the idea at this time. According to one senior medical figure on one of the teams advising the Health Ministry, the data does not show that herd immunity is imminent.

“There is no basis for the concept of herd immunity with the coronavirus,” the official said. “This is a theoretical concept taken from other diseases. No country in the world has come close or is coming close to the classical 60 percent nor to the speculative 30-40 percent hypothesizing cellular immunity or cross-immunity. Everything at the moment is speculation and danger.”

According to the official, herd immunity occurs only with effective immunization of the population.

A man prays in a semi-open space during the Sukkot holiday amid Israel's second nationwide coronavirus lockdown, October 4, 2020 Credit: Ofer Vaknin

The serological survey was conducted by the pandemic response team and the Central Bureau of Statistics in cooperation with the Bnei Brak municipality.

The municipality received a sample pool of names from the statistics bureau and its representatives called the people and persuaded them to take part in the survey. The researchers had initially wanted a sample of 6,000, but only 3,500 people agreed to participate. Magen David Adom ambulance crews went to the people’s homes to take the samples.

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