Coronavirus News Asia

Israeli research debunks Sinophobic narrative

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At the time of writing, the United States has the highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the world, so it is important not to dismiss the idea of scrutinizing the extent to which the US may have contributed to the spread of the virus to other parts of the globe.

President Donald Trump and his hawkish secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, have preferred to demonize China and blackmail the World Health Organization rather than taking a prudent stance in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Adi Stern and her team of researchers at the School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology at Tel Aviv University’s George S Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, discovered that 70% of infected Israelis had a SARS CoV-2 variant that originated in the US.

TAU’s study was based on an analysis of the genomic sequences of more than 200 patients in Israeli hospitals and comparing them to sequenced genomes from 4,700 patients in other countries. It was published on Monday on the medRxiv.org website.

What is particularly interesting about the study is that the research found hardly any infections having been imported to Israel from China, South Korea or Singapore.

Stern states that the study was conducted over approximately two months “so from the very beginning [of the outbreak of the pandemic in Israel], from some of the earliest patients until late April.”

Israel’s first confirmed case of Covid-19 was recorded on February 21, three weeks after the country started restricting travel from Asia and closing its borders to tourists while implementing mandatory quarantines for travelers. Flights from Europe were also restricted early on, but not from the US.

“There was a delay in policy. Flights from Europe were stopped between February 26 and March 4 and all travelers had to be quarantined, but flights from the US were only stopped on March 9,” Stern explained.

She added that “returning travelers from the US contributed more to the spread of the virus in Israel than those from Europe.” Closing the borders to flights from Europe, the academic continued, “worked really well as we saw very few transmission chains from there.”

Another significant finding was that more than 80% of Covid-19 infections in Israel were the direct result of just 10% of “super-spreaders.” That means only 800 people were responsible for four out of five Israeli infections.

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