Bennett Meets With Top Health Officials After Case of New COVID Sub-strain Found in Israel

An 11-year-old Israeli was identified with the AY4.2 sub-strain of the coronavirus, which accounts for 8 percent of U.K. COVID cases

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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A medical worker is performing a COVID test on an Israeli teen in Jerusalem, last week.
A medical worker is performing a COVID test on an Israeli teen in Jerusalem, last week.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with top health officials for Wednesday night to discuss the discovery on Tuesday of the first case of the AY4.2 sub-strain of the COVID-19 delta variant in the country.

Bennett was joined by Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, Health Minsitry Director General Chezy Levy, public health chief Sharon Alroy-Preis, COVID czar Salman Zarka and others.

Bennett issued a number of instructions at the end of the meeting. According to the prime minister's instructions, every case of the sub-strain will be met with robust contact tracing, while countries in which the sub-variant is present will be contacted so information can be shared. The proposal for rules on tourism that is to be presented to Bennett on Thursday will be updated in line with what is known about the sub-variant. Genetic sequencing capabilities will be significantly expanded in order to increase knowledge about the sub-strain, as well.

Passers-by adorn masks in Mahane Yehuda market, in Jerusalem, this month.

An 11-year-old Israeli was diagnosed with AY4.2, a sub-strain of the delta variant on Tuesday, upon his return from Moldova. However, no other cases of infection were identified, the Health Ministry said.

Prof. Ran Balicer, who heads Israel's COVID-19 expert advisory panel, tweeted that while the AY4.2 accounts for 8 percent of the U.K.'s cases, the strain has not yet been extensively spreading in the U.S.

Experience has taught Israel that the infiltration of new variants into the country is most often meaningless.

Even if the variant in question is dangerous or has several mutations, it should not necessarily cause concern. The most important question is whether it is capable of becoming dominant.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, over a dozen variants, associated with several strains of the virus, have been discovered in Israel, most of which have ended after only a handful of infections.

Meanwhile, Israel reported 1,130 new COVID cases on Wednesday. The number marks a slight decline from yesterday's number which stood at 1,483.

Moreover, there are currently 352 patients in serious condition, of whom 177 are in critical condition and 156 are on ventilators.

The rate of positive tests also dropped from Monday's figure of 1.42 percent to 1.28 percent on Monday. To date, 8,023 people in Israel have died of COVID.

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