Three cases of new COVID-19 variant found in people returning to Israel

The variant, BA4, has been spreading through South Africa, causing a rise in mortality.

 Travellers at the departure halls of Ben Gurion International Airport ahead of the Jewish holiday of Passover. April 14, 2022.  (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
Travellers at the departure halls of Ben Gurion International Airport ahead of the Jewish holiday of Passover. April 14, 2022.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

A new COVID-19 variant was found in three PCR tests taken at Ben-Gurion Airport from travelers returning to Israel, the Health Ministry has reported.

The BA.4 variant has been spreading through South Africa, causing a rise in mortality. The three cases came from passengers returning from South Africa, Singapore and Italy.

The ministry said there is currently no further information regarding the variant but that it is keeping an eye on it.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said the fact that the new variant was discovered in the airport indicated how important it is to keep the testing center there open.

“This indicates the importance of the tests we do at Ben-Gurion Airport,” he said in an interview with KAN Reshet Bet. “We are following [the situation] and checking” into the meaning of the discovery.

Coronavirus PCR tests being performed at Sonol gas stations. (credit: Courtesy)Coronavirus PCR tests being performed at Sonol gas stations. (credit: Courtesy)

Unfortunately, we did not get rid of the coronavirus – neither we nor the world,” he warned. “We passed the Omicron, not the coronavirus. If we need to take new steps, we will take them.”

Israel dropped its mask mandate this week. However, if the new BA.4 variant proves to be problematic, masks might again be made mandatory.

There has been talk of stopping PCR tests at the airport on passengers coming into Israel, but this new discovery could cause the government to rethink that possibility.