Ministry health

Health Ministry: 3 cases of new Omicron subvariant detected among arrivals to Israel

The Ministry of Health announced on Monday that three recent arrivals at Ben Gurion Airport tested positive for the new BA.4 Omicron sub-variant.

One of the passengers was from South Africa, where the subvariant spread, while the other two were from Singapore and Italy.

The ministry said it has no further information on BA.4 at this time.

However, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz played down concerns about BA.4.

“There are several such cases that we have discovered during tests at Ben Gurion Airport. So far, we have no details of how dangerous it is or any other characteristics. We are monitoring this development. For l right now, there is no reason to worry,” he told Kan radio.

“There are places where the vaccines haven’t reached yet. Unfortunately, we haven’t got rid of COVID… If further measures are needed — we will take them. There is no need to intimidate the public.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, February 14, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization said scientists in Botswana and South Africa had detected the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, but did not yet know if they were more transmissible or dangerous than previous versions of Omicron.

The WHO said there was so far no evidence that the new subvariants spread differently than the original Omicron variant.

On Saturday evening, Israel lifted its indoor mask mandate, one of the few remaining coronavirus restrictions that were still in place.

The decision to scrap the indoor mask mandate came as Israel sees a continued decline in morbidity, with new infections, severe cases and deaths from COVID-19 all falling week on week.

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