More than 70 percent of COVID-19 coronavirus patients in Israel were infected by a strain that originated in the United States, according to a new study by Tel Aviv University.
The study published on Monday shows that the rest of the infections in Israel were imported from Belgium (8%), France (6%), England (5%), Spain (3%) followed by Italy, the Philippines, and Russia.
Dr. Adi Stern of Tel Aviv University's School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology told The Jerusalem Post that Israelis who returned from the U.S. created “transmission chains.”
Researchers reached this conclusion after comparing genomic sequences of Israeli patients to 4,700 genomic sequences from different areas around the world.
Israel witnessed hardly any infections imported from China, South Korea, or Singapore.
The country began suspending flights from Europe and other nations between February 26 and March 4. However, Israel's borders were not shut down to all foreign arrivals unable to self-isolate for 14 days until March 9.
The study also showed that “super spreaders” - individuals who disobeyed Health Ministry guidelines and attended “super-spreading events, such as large parties or other social gatherings,” contributed to mass infections, the report said.
In March, a group of 65 members of the Haredi Habad movement arrived from New York after a year of studies in Crown Heights, having been infected by COVID-19, and were isolated in a Jerusalem hotel.
Flag-carrier El Al said they were not aware that there were suspected carriers of the virus among their passengers and their aircraft was not prepared for that eventuality.
Dozens of passengers traveling from the United States were also allowed entry to Israel on April 9, despite regulations requiring any non-nationals to enter a 14-day quarantine at a state-run facility.
The travelers who arrived from New York were greeted by Magen David Adom teams who checked them for coronavirus-related symptoms and then allowed entry into the country after they signed a form declaring they would remain in self-isolation for the next two weeks.
One of the travelers told Ynet that he did not have a place to self-isolate despite declaring so at the airport.
On another date In April, passengers on United Airlines Flight UA90 from New Jersey worried that some of those on the flight may have had coronavirus.
One of the passengers told Ynet that a man from Brooklyn had boarded the plane despite being ordered to remain in quarantine while waiting for COVID-19 test results.