The number of cases of the omicron variant in Israel has risen to 21 as of Monday, the Health Ministry reports.
Sixteen of the cases were those who had recently returned from South Africa, the U.K., France, the U.S. and UAE. The five remaining cases were those who had been exposed to the virus by travelers who had returned from South Africa and the U.S.
Of the cases, eight of them had no protection against the virus, meaning that they were either unvaccinated or had not recovered from the virus, giving them COVID antibodies.
It is suspected that there are an additional 21 cases that are suspected but not yet confirmed to possess the omicron variant. Of these 21, 14 were entirely unprotected against the virus. Only five of the suspected cases recently returned from abroad, meaning that the majority of the cases arose from exposure to someone who had returned from abroad recently.
In total there are 42 suspected and confirmed cases.
Additionally, there are 17 cases that have been classified as "low suspicion" as the results for testing them for the variant proved inconclusive, and they are waiting to be re-examined.
With nearly five months since Israel first approved the booster shot in July, the panel leading Israel's COVID response is expected to convene on Tuesday to discuss a fourth COVID shot for at-risk patients.
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521 new coronavirus cases were reported on Monday, while the number of serious cases stood at 112 and has remained below 150 during the past two weeks, compared to around 700 in late September.