JERUSALEM (AP)-The Israeli Ministry of Health said on Friday that it has confirmed 7 cases of the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, which has raised concerns about the upcoming surge in infections. Four of the confirmed cases are unvaccinated people who have recently returned from South Africa.
The other three, including two returning from South Africa and the United Kingdom, received two boosters of Pfizer’s BioNTech vaccine. The third person returned from Malawi and was vaccinated with AstraZeneca.
After the first omicron variant was discovered last week, Israel was one of the first countries to close its borders to all non-Israeli citizens. Allow Israelis from abroad to return home.
The Ministry of Health stated that it “highly suspects” that the other 27 confirmed coronavirus cases are also new variants. Eight of them had either travelled abroad or had contact with people who had recently arrived omicron who tested positive.
The rest cannot be linked to foreign travel-this suggests that the omicron variant may now be spreading in Israeli cities and towns.
On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and the Israeli Ministry of Health jointly drafted a new set of measures aimed at preventing the spread of the omicron variant. These included a fine of 2,500 shekels (approximately US$790) for returning Israeli travelers who failed to undergo the second PCR test, and an initiative to promote vaccination in schools and local authorities.
Israel has announced that it will use the country’s controversial phone tracking technology to help track possible cases of the new coronavirus variant. However, the plan was halted on Thursday after widespread criticism of it as an infringement of personal privacy.
Israel is a country with a population of over 9 million. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 8,199 people have died from the coronavirus. Most of its population-more than 6.3 million people-received at least one dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and more than 4 million Israelis received a booster dose.