Police at a temporary lockdown "checkpoint" at the entrance to Jerusalem
Police at a temporary lockdown "checkpoint" at the entrance to Jerusalem Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Professor Amnon Shashua is Chief Executive Officer of Mobileye, a company that specializes in artificial intelligence. He was interviewed by Yediot Aharonot, specifically regarding a mathematical model he and several of his colleagues have developed in order to track the progression of the coronavirus epidemic and make informed predictions regarding its future course.

“The model I developed divides people into two groups – high-risk, and low-risk. It takes those in the high-risk category – the elderly, and people with pre-existing health conditions – and isolates them from the rest of the population,” he says.

“As for the rest of the population, those who are at low risk of suffering serious consequences from contracting the coronavirus, I believe that within two months, they should be able to gradually get back to work,” he explains, adding that even if the virus is still circulating then, those who contract it will not be in danger and will acquire herd immunity, which will subsequently protect those at high risk. “Once most of the population is immune, the epidemic stops, and those at high risk can leave their homes without fear.”

The mathematical model under discussion was presented to the Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee on Tuesday by Professor Shashua. He related that people around the world are beginning to hear about it, and that he has received requests from several senior officials in India and Argentina, as well as from the governor of New York, the state that has been the hardest hit by coronavirus in the entire United States.

According to the professor, “The steps that we have taken until now here in Israel were designed to buy us time, to prevent us from reaching a point where the health system would collapse under the pressure [as has happened in other countries, notably Italy and Spain]. Okay, so we gained time – but now what? What’s the next step? How do we emerge from this crisis? Soon we’ll have a million people out of work. The government needs to develop an exit strategy. All it’s doing right now is imposing a closure, trying to locate those infected, and isolate them from the rest of the population. The Health Ministry believes that this is the best way of doing things – limiting the number of people getting sick. I must say that I have my doubts. In fact, I think it’s the road to disaster.”

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