Leading Israeli tech entrepreneur Amnon Shashua, CEO of Mobileye and senior vice president at Intel Corporation, met with a Knesset special committee on Tuesday to discuss an “exit strategy” that he believes will allow the country to overcome the current coronavirus outbreak, avoid a recession, and resume economic activity within months.
Shashua, a co-founder of the Jerusalem-based firm that builds visual-assistance technologies for autonomous vehicles, and was sold to Intel for $15 billion in 2017, presented the plan to the Knesset Special Committee on Dealing With the Coronavirus. It includes steps to slowly bring some of the population out of self-isolation and reopen businesses.
The plan was first published last week on the online platform Medium in a post called, “Can we Contain COVID-19 without Locking-down the Economy?” The post was co-authored by Shai Shalev-Shwartz, a computer science professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and CTO of Mobileye.
“I think that our message that ‘an exit strategy is required’ was well heard and the reaction of the proposed approach was overall positive,” Prof. Shalev-Shwartz tells NoCamels in an email on Wednesday morning. “The initial reaction of the decisionmakers was good. Now is the time to plan the next steps, and I believe that the ‘exit strategy’ should be transparent.”
“Quarantine the high-risk and gradually release the low-risk population to achieve a managed herd immunity of that population,” they wrote in the post. “The managed phase is designed to allow the health system to cope with the expected number of severe cases.”
According to the pair, anyone aged 67 or older, “which represents the retired segment of society,” is considered part of the high-risk group. The low-risk group is “the remainder of society which is released to their daily routine while following certain distancing protocols that are aimed at slowing the spread.”
While the high-risk group would have to be quarantined for a longer period of time — as the low-risk group reaches a herd immunity level — the economy could remain largely undisrupted, they wrote.
It is also when this herd immunity is reached that the high-risk population can “gradually” be released from quarantine.
Prof. Shalev-Shwartz tells NoCamels that implementing the strategy could have the low-risk population getting back to normal “immediately.”
“We estimate that herd immunity will be developed in about a month. Once it will happen, the “high-risk” population can also get back to normal,” he said.
Shashua told Israeli financial daily Calcalist that executing this strategy could have the economy running and a majority of the population out of isolation in as little as three months
“On the other hand, if you say that we are going to have three difficult months, that the country will hand out grants so that the economy doesn’t collapse, but after that, it will all be over, people will be able to accept that,” he said.
According to the post, the issue would then be how to manage the release of the population from quarantine so as not to overwhelm the health system, not when will there be an exit.