Israel IDs Three COVID Cases of South American Strains in Vaccinated Arrivals

All three vaccinated Israelis had recently returned from abroad; Two cases of Brazilian COVID variant and one Chilean variant found

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Travellers at Ben Gurion airport in April.
Travellers at Ben Gurion airport in April.Credit: Hadas Parush

Israel has identified its first two cases of the Brazilian variant of coronavirus, the Health Ministry said on Monday, as well as the first case of the Chilean strain.

All three cases were discovered through genetic sequencing in vaccinated Israelis who had recently returned from abroad.

In recent weeks, Brazil and Chile have recorded record-high surges in COVID cases, prompting some countries to impose quarantine and travel restrictions on arrivals from the two South American nations.

The Brazilian strain, much like the mutations from the U.K., South Africa and India, has undergone a change in spike protein, and is believed to be more contagious than the original COVID variant.

Israel's the Health Ministry also said that they had discovered an additional 19 new cases of the Indian coronavirus strain, none of which were found in Israeli citizens. Thus far, a total of 60 cases of the Indian variant have been diagnosed in Israel.

The first 41 cases of the Indian strain were identified last week, including four in people who had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Israel's genomic sequencing system found that 24 of those infected with the variant, which experts say may be more contagious than other variants, had returned recently from abroad.

The other 17 contracted it via community transmission, including five schoolchildren. The Health Ministry and the IDF Home Front Command are carrying out widespread testing at the schools where the children are enrolled.  

It is still unclear how these variants affect vaccinated and recovered patients.

Israeli orders restricting international travel to and from seven countries with high coronavirus infection rates went into effect on Monday, and will remain in place at least until May 16.

The latest regulations also apply to vaccinated people – who over the past months, as Israel's vaccination drive progressed and the country reopened – were largely exempt from most COVID-19 restrictions.

Apart from special cases, requiring passengers to obtain permits in advance via the Health Ministry's website, Israeli citizens and residents are barred from traveling to Ukraine, Brazil, Ethiopia, South Africa, India, Mexico and Turkey.

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