The former director of Israel’s Health Ministry, Dr. Yoram Lass, lamented what he argues was the exaggerated reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, including the nationwide lockdowns imposed by the government.
Speaking with Radio 103FM Tuesday morning, Dr. Lass said that for the vast majority of the population, the coronavirus is no more deadly than the seasonal flu – and in some cases, is even less dangerous.
“The public wants an answer to one question: ‘Am I more likely to be killed by the coronavirus than by the flu’. And the answer is: No.”
“The coronavirus and the flu are roughly in the same level in terms of risk factor, and in some ways the flu is more dangerous, since it also threatens young people and can kill children, too, while the coronavirus affects a smaller number of people, all of them around the age of 80 or 90, and so in that sense it is better than the flu.”
"About 1,000 people die [in Israel] every winter from complications from the flu," noted Dr. Lass, while the coronavirus has killed 281 people in Israel.
“The population as a whole ‘pays’ in human life in order to live normal lives,” continued Dr. Lass. “Otherwise we’d stop flying on planes, since they can crash. We’d start walking to work since there are traffic accidents.”
Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its estimate on the fatality rate of the coronavirus downward to 0.26%. That figure is significantly below earlier estimates, but still is more than twice as high as the fatality rate of the season flu. Earlier estimates had suggested the coronavirus fatality rate could be as much as ten times higher than the seasonal flu.
But broken down by age, the new CDC estimate shows that the coronavirus is likely less deadly than the seasonal flu to people under the age of 50, and has a similar fatality rate as the seasonal flu to people between the ages of 50 to 64.
For people under the age of 50, the estimated coronavirus fatality rate is, according to the latest CDC figures and including asymptomatic patients, 0.0325%, while the estimated fatality rate for people over 50 but under 65 is 0.13%. For people over the age of 65, however, the fatality rate rises significantly, to 0.845%.
In March, Dr. Lass criticized the media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, accusing the media of ‘exaggerating’ the threat and leading to a nation-wide panic.
"The wild media is exaggerating the issue and it's driving governments crazy. Governments are afraid of the public, the public is afraid of the governments, they feed off each other. Every time you see another crazy thing. You've gone crazy. In Italy there are 60 million people who haven't yet died, only a few people died, like flu. I'm completely calm, it's flu. Coronavirus is a light illness and the chance of dying from it is almost zero."