Coronavirus testing facility at Ben Gurion Airport

Israel detects three cases of new Omicron offshoot

Immunologist says new sub-variant does not seem to be more virulent than other members of Omicron lineage, though it is still too early to determine with certainty

Adir Yanko |
Published: 04.25.22, 19:37
Three cases of a new strain of Omicron coronavirus were detected in Israel in the last week, the Health Ministry announced on Monday.
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  • The new variant, known as BA.4, was detected thanks to PCR testing performed on every traveler arriving in Israel from Israel through Ben Gurion Airport and genetic sequencing of the samples.
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    מאהל בדיקות קורונה נתב"ג
    מאהל בדיקות קורונה נתב"ג
    Coronavirus testing facility at Ben Gurion Airport
    (Photo: Shahar Tal)
    The ministry said in a statement that the Omicron offshoot was found in travelers returning from South Africa — where it is currently fueling a fresh hike in morbidity — Singapore and Italy. It noted there is still no further information regarding the new sub-variant, and that the ministry continues to monitor developments on the issue.
    Prof. Cyrille Cohen, an expert on immunology at Bar-Ilan University, told Ynet that some 200 cases of the new variant have been detected in the United States, Botswana, Denmark and the United Kingdom and it does not seem to be more virulent than other members of the Omicron lineage, though he reserved it was still too early to assert that is the case.
    Earlier last month, the World Health Organization announced that it was monitoring additional sub-strains of the Omicron lineage, including strains BA.1.1, BA.2 — which is becoming increasingly dominant in the world — and BA.3.
    BA.3 was first detected in Israel last month but seems to be far less prolific and less dangerous compared to its relatives.
    According to a joint decision by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, Israelis will no longer be required to wear masks inside, except for confirmed coronavirus carriers heading to quarantine and in places posing a high risk of infection, such as hospitals, nursing homes and planes.
    The mask mandate was also abolished in June last year at the tail end of the previous government's term as it decided to do away with all pandemic-induced restrictions, owing to Israel's highly successful vaccination push.
    The requirement was reinstated less than two weeks later by the new government announced as the country entered its fourth morbidity wave.
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