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Top health official: Virus ‘diminishing’ but new variants a huge concern

Head of public health services in the Health Ministry, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, during an undated government meeting. (Knesset Spokesperson)
Head of public health services in the Health Ministry, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, during an undated government meeting. (Knesset Spokesperson)

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the head of public health at the Health Ministry, says that, with the coronavirus outbreak diminishing, Israel’s main concern is the possibility of new variants entering the country that are impervious to the effects of the vaccine.

“The issue that scares us the most is the entry of variants,” she tells reporters in a briefing. “The British strain rules here with 90 percent [of the cases], but the vaccine is effective against it. We also have the South African strain, which constitutes 1% [of case] but against which the vaccine is less effective. We’re afraid that additional strains that are stronger than the vaccine will enter through all [Israel’s] crossings.”

Alroy-Preis says that most concerning is Ben Gurion International Airport.

At the same time, crediting Israel’s successful vaccination campaign, she says that the virus is “constantly diminishing” and notes that only 15% of Israeli locales are considered either “red” or “orange” in the country’s color-coded scheme for determining the severity of a local outbreak.

She also notes that businesses and other venues will have access to rapid virus tests starting Sunday, which will enable them to admit more unvaccinated people.

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