On Tuesday, the Israeli Health Ministry announced that they had detected the first two cases of yet another subvariant of the Omicron strain in travelers arriving at the Ben Gurion Airport. This was a day after the Health Ministry had announced the first cases of another subvariant, which is also closely related. The statement from the ministry indicated that a pair of travelers were found to be carrying the BA.5 variant of the Omicron variant. However, it was not disclosed if the two travelers came together and they did not specify where they had traveled from. The ministry had previously said on Monday that three people arriving in the country had tested positive for the BA.4 variant.
This particular variant, as well as the BA.5, has been wildly spreading throughout South Africa. On Tuesday, the Health Ministry announced that a fourth BA.4 case had also been diagnosed at the airport. The World Health Organization had made an announcement earlier this month about scientists from South Africa and Botswana detecting the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants. However, they were not sure as yet about whether the two sub-variants are more dangerous or transmissible than the previous sub-variants of the Omicron strain. According to WHO, they do not have any evidence as yet about the new sub-variants spreading differently as opposed to the original.
Israeli health officials said that they were keeping a close eye on the two sub-variants, but also added that there was no need to worry. Earlier on Tuesday, the Health Ministry’s chief of staff of the public health services department, Ilana Gans spoke at a hearing conducted by the Knesset Health Committee. She said that they were tracking the two new variants and hadn’t seen any major increase in hospitalizations. Gans also disclosed that in the coming weeks, the Health Ministry officials would be meeting to discuss the remaining coronavirus restrictions that are still in effect in Israel.
This includes quarantine for everyone who has a positive test result and mandatory PCR tests for all travelers arriving at the Ben Gurion Airport. Israel had finally put an end to its indoor mask mandate on Saturday, after it had remained in effect for about two years. Currently, people are only required to wear masks in locations that are considered risky, such as senior care facilities, hospitals and during air travel. Ministry officials are also contemplating the need for these requirements.
As of Tuesday, statistics from the Health Ministry showed that the number of active cases in Israel was about 27,750 and the number of new cases confirmed on Wednesday was 4,440. There are currently 595 COVID-19 patients that are in hospitals in Israel and 212 of them are considered serious. There are also 74 patients in this number who are on ventilators. The ‘R’ number, or transmission number, has seen a slight increase in recent days. It had declined to 0.7 a week ago, but has now climbed to 0.9. Nonetheless, it still remains below 1, which means the virus is still contained.