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Friday, March 31, 2023

New Covid-19 variant diagnosed at airport in Israel

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A Covid-19 variant has been diagnosed at an Israeli airport in 2 returning passengers. But the new variant is believed to have originated in Israel.

Two cases of a new, previously unknown COVID strain were detected in Israel in recent days, according to the Health Ministry of Israel.

The new variant, which was a mix of Omicron’s dominant subvariant BA.1 and another subvariant, BA.2, caused mild symptoms such as a low fever, muscle aches, and headaches and did not necessitate any specific therapy.

“This variety is currently unknown throughout the world,” the Health Ministry stated, adding that the instances were identified through PCR tests performed on arriving Israeli travellers at Ben Gurion Airport. There is conflicting evidence on whether it produces more severe disease, but immunizations appear to be equally effective against it.

Despite the fact that the number of persons tested in Israel has decreased, all overseas arrivals at the airport are scrutinised upon arrival.

Nachman Ash, Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Health, believes the new variation may have originated in Israel. The ministry stated that it will continue to keep a careful eye on the situation. BA.2 has been linked to re-infections in patients who had previously been infected with Omicron.

He speculated, “They were most likely infected before boarding the flight in Israel, but the variant could have arisen in Israel.”

COVID czar Salman Zarka appeared to confirm the new variant’s locality.

“A young woman infected a baby and both of her parents,” he stated, without elaborating on the location or timing of the infections.

Zarka’s reassuring statements come as Israel has seen an increase in the virus’s transmission rate in the last few weeks.

On August 29, 2021, Coronavirus Czar Salman Zarka addresses a press briefing regarding the coronavirus in Jerusalem.

The R number — the unique coronavirus’s reproduction rate — reached 0.9 on Wednesday, based on data from 10 days earlier, after progressively growing from 0.66 over two weeks. The figure indicates the average number of persons infected by each confirmed patient.

Any number greater than one indicates that the epidemic is spreading.

Over the last month, the number of new daily COVID cases has steadily decreased, from more than 30,000 in mid-February to slightly over 6,300 on March 15. There were 37,557 ongoing COVID cases in the country as of Wednesday morning, with 6,310 additional cases verified on March 15. There are 789 active cases, including 335 in critical condition and 151 on ventilators. The death toll since the start of the epidemic is 10,401.

While Israeli health experts believe the new variant will not cause a new wave of infections in the country, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday that he will meet with health officials, including Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, to discuss the rising COVID-19 infections “in several places around the world.”

Bennett’s cautious attitude could be due to the forthcoming Jewish holidays, which feature big gatherings and have previously resulted in epidemic illnesses. Purim, a Jewish holiday celebrated with massive parties and celebrations, falls this week. A month later is Passover, which is usually celebrated with large family gatherings. Passover was observed under extreme lockdown two years ago, with households told not to host any relatives from outside their family.

A case of yet another new variety may have been found in Israel, according to a report on Monday night. The Deltacron, which is a combination of Delta and Omicron, was discovered in lab-sequenced swab samples.

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