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

Passengers from South Africa, Singapore and Italy found to be infected with BA.4; Health Minister Horowitz says no reason to worry at this time

A technician collects swab samples for COVID-19 at Ben Gurion International Airport on March 2, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/ Flash90)
A technician collects swab samples for COVID-19 at Ben Gurion International Airport on March 2, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/ Flash90)

The Health Ministry announced on Monday that three recent arrivals at Ben Gurion Airport have tested positive for the new BA.4 Omicron subvariant.

One of the passengers came from South Africa, where the subvariant has been spreading, while the other two came from Singapore and Italy.

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

However, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz downplayed concerns about BA.4.

“There are several such cases that we discovered during testing at Ben Gurion Airport. So far we have no details on its dangerousness or any other characteristics. We are following this development. For now, there is no reason to worry,” he told Kan radio.

“There are places the vaccines have not reached yet. Unfortunately, we have not gotten rid of COVID… If new measures are required — 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 are not yet sure whether they are more transmissible or dangerous than previous versions of Omicron.

WHO said there was no evidence thus far that the new sub-variants spread any differently than the original Omicron variant.

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

The decision to do away with the indoor mask mandate came as Israel sees a continued decline in morbidity, with new infections, serious cases, and deaths from COVID-19 all declining week by week.

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