Coronavirus: Is the Delta variant sparing the Haredim? – The Jerusalem Post

While the highly contagious Delta variant is raging over Israel, which in a month and a half has seen its coronavirus active cases skyrocketing from less than 200 to 25,000, the Ultra-Orthodox sector has so far gone through the new wave relatively unscathed.
Ultra-Orthodox communities in Israel and other countries have been hit hard by the pandemic in previous waves due to a combination of lifestyle – large families in small houses, emphasis on communal events from daily collective prayers to weddings – and hesitancy to follow the guidelines, if not completely disregarding them.
However, currently only 4% of the cases – based on a weekly average – as well as of moderate and serious patients in Israel, are recorded in the sector, data by the Health Ministry shows.
“This means that there is almost no manifest morbidity in the sector,” said Avi Blumenthal, a spokesman for the haredi department of the Health Ministry public advocacy unit.

Experts believe that there are several reasons behind the situation.
“First of all, the rate of people who have recovered, which is exceptionally high among the Ultra-Orthodox,” Blumenthal added. “For example, in a city like Bnei Brak, with some 206,000 residents, there are about 50,000 people who have recovered. In Modi’in Illit, with a population of 86,000 there are almost 30,000 residents who have recovered.”
In the yeshiva system, some 39% of the 45,000 students have recovered, he also noted.
“We are talking about people who have officially recovered and we know that there are a lot more who were never officially recorded, also because many did not get tested in order to avoid a local lockdown in their neighborhood or city,” Blumenthal said. “In addition, there are those who have been vaccinated.”

One of the main problems related to the Delta variant has been its capacity to break through the protection offered by the vaccine. Recently, half or more new virus carriers identified every day were fully inoculated.

While there is still no comprehensive study on the issue, according to the Health Ministry data, 1% or less had recovered.
According to Blumenthal it is also important to consider the specific season of the year.
“The summer holidays in the Ultra-Orthodox community started much later than in the general society,” he said.
Traditionally, ultra-orthodox educational frameworks are open until Tisha Be’Av – which this year fell on July 18 – while the rest of the schools ended in June.
“This means that other people started to travel and to fly abroad a month earlier, while among the haredim, many canceled their trips abroad as countries shut down or quarantine upon return was imposed,” Blumenthal noted.
Currently, people who got infected abroad represent almost 10% of new cases.
“Even before Tisha Be’Av, we had the period of the Three Weeks, when it is prohibited to listen to music or to get married, so there weren’t big events and gatherings,” the expert remarked, referring to the period of mourning between the two fasts of the 17 of Tamuz and Tisha Be’Av.
Blumenthal said that there is no certainty that the new wave will not hit the haredi community in the future.
“We are seeing a rise in cases. For example Bnei Brak currently has 360 active cases with 7% positivity rate, and it has turned red,” he noted.
“It is important to remember that right now, most people who go and get tested are individuals who need a test to take part in an event or to fly abroad, not so much because they present symptoms,” he pointed out. “This means that it could be that there is a hidden morbidity that we are not aware of. We hope this is not the case and it will not change.”
In the meantime, the ministry has launched two campaigns, one to remind people to wear masks indoors and one to encourage those over 60 to get vaccinated with a third shot.
Meantime, the school year in the ultra-Orthodox sector will begin already Monday last week, on the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul.
The Education and Health ministries have been working on an outline to carry out mass serological testing on Israeli children, to allow all those who have antibodies to avoid quarantine if they come into contact with an identified case.
Blumenthal is not aware of such a plan for the haredi sector.
If carried out, the initiative could help figure out what is the real rate of immunization reached by the community, and possibly, if it is high enough to guarantee herd immunity.

Sorgente articolo:
Coronavirus: Is the Delta variant sparing the Haredim? – The Jerusalem Post

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