First Delta Plus Case Found in Israel; All Arrivals to Quarantine Until Testing Negative

Ido Efrati
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Coronavirus testing in the Tel Aviv suburb of Kfar Sava last month.
Coronavirus testing in the Tel Aviv suburb of Kfar Sava last month.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

A vaccinated passenger who arrived in Israel from abroad has been diagnosed with the country's first case of a new coronavirus variant known as delta plus.

Another person came into contact with the confirmed passenger and is currently awaiting a COVID-19 test result. 

The delta plus variant is very similar to the more widespread delta variant, and it is still not clear if it's more contagious or dangerous than the delta variant. The delta plus variant is different in its spike protein on the surface of the virus, which enables the virus to bind to a cell and infect it.

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The coronavirus cabinet decided Wednesday that all passengers arriving in Israel will be required to go into quarantine, even if they have been vaccinated in Israel, until they receive a negative COVID-19 test taken upon arrival. 

According to the Health Ministry, "There is currently no indication whether this variant is clinically significant. All those in contact with the returnee have been tested, and there is one confirmed contact with her for whom the results have yet to be received."

The delta plus variant was first discovered in India, as was the delta variant, and has now been found in a number of other countries, including the United States and Britain. It is not apparent, however, whether it will become the dominant strain in those countries.

Israel is closely monitoring the course that the delta plus variant takes in Britain, an Israeli Health Ministry source said. "If there is a significant and dominant variant there, it will probably also be significant in Israel down the line, but that's not the case [now]," the source said.

About two weeks ago, Indian Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that there was concern in India that the delta plus variant could be more contagious and could adhere more strongly to lung cells, making it easier for it to invade the cells. It might also be more resistant to antibodies created by the human body, he added.

Because changes in the virus' surface protein could make it more effective in adhering to lung cells, such a variant also has the potential of rendering vaccines less effective. But such changes in the surface structure don't necessarily provide the virus with the capacity to become the dominant variant.

Other COVID-19 strains, such as the beta variant from South Africa, have also been discovered in Israel, but have not become dominant despite their advantage over the original version of the virus.

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