Israel Detects New COVID Strain, but Says Vaccines Are Effective Against It

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A coronavirus testing center in the Israeli Arab town of Tayibe, this month.
A coronavirus testing center in the Israeli Arab town of Tayibe, this month. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

A new Israeli coronavirus strain has been discovered, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, adding that the vaccines administered in the country are effective against the local variant.

Furthermore, only a small number of Israelis have been diagnosed as carriers of the new COVID strain, which has not been proven to cause severe symptoms, according to the ministry.

First evidence of the Israeli strain has been detected in July, the ministry said, but the number of Israelis carrying it has been declining.

The Israeli strain has low prevalence and lacks any epidemiological significance, the ministry said.   

The ministry stressed that the British strain has been identified in more than 90 percent of positive COVID tests conducted in Israel since the beginning of March, meaning it is still the dominant variant in Israel.   

Earlier on Tuesday, the Health Ministry said that no Israeli city is suffering high infection rates. Currently, Israel has 51 localities with moderate infection rates and the rest are communities with low infection rates.

Israel now has 423 seriously ill patients, of whom 206 are on ventilators.

On Monday, a Knesset panel decided against authorizing the government's request to continue deploying the Shin Bet security service in highly controversial coronavirus tracking.

The government decision, taken on March 25, would allow Israel's internal security service to use additional means to halt the spread of coronavirus.

The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee gave the government a day to come up with a more narrowly tailored plan.

The cabinet had voted to extend the Shin Bet’s authority to track citizens through the use of cellphone locations for another three weeks in its current format. If the cabinet does not submit a revised plan, the Shin Bet’s current authority will expire.

According to Health Ministry data provided to the committee, Shin Bet tracking activity was able to identify 2.2 percent of newly infected COVID-19 patients over the past week. That was the first week in which the tracking identified fewer than 5 percent of new coronavirus cases.

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