An additional five cases of the AY4.2 coronavirus variant have been discovered in Israel, the Health Ministry announced Thursday, two days after the first variant carrier was identified in an 11-year-old boy returning from Moldovia
Following the discovery, the ministry’s testing laboratory examined additional potential cases previously classified as the Delta variant several and discovered that five individuals were infected with AY4.2, which is considered a subvariant of Delta and appears to be some 10-15% more contagious.
On Wednesday night, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with senior health officials to discuss the potential dangers of a new variant.
The authorities agreed upon increasing genetic sequencing and epidemiological investigations to keep the situation monitored, as well as to be in contact with countries where AY4.2 is already common to obtain further information.
Also on Thursday, two coronavirus outbreaks have been identified in two elementary schools in Jerusalem and in the Samaria settlement Shaarei Tikva, The Jerusalem Post confirmed, as over 50% of new cases in the previous 24 hours were recorded among children aged 0-11, Health Ministry data showed.
Some 42 students and staff have been found positive at the Zalman Aren schools in Jerusalem and 39 in Shaarei Tikva.
Both schools operate under the new Green Class outline, according to which only identified virus carriers have to quarantine, while those who are exposed can continue to attend learning in person provided that they get a negative PCR test after they came in contact with someone infected and undergo a rapid test every day for seven days, followed by a second PCR test at the end of the period. Following the outbreak however, the school in Jerusalem has been closed.
The Green Class outline was strongly supported by Bennett and the Education Ministry to reduce the number of children and parents forced to isolate. It started to be implemented in areas with low morbidity on October 10, a week before the pilot launched by the Health Ministry in a limited number of schools to monitor its potential effects was scheduled to end.
Starting from Sunday, the framework will be applied also in preschools.
While morbidity in Israel has been constantly dropping for weeks, as of Thursday, almost 9,000 out of 15,000 active cases in the country were schoolchildren.
Some 1,025 new virus carriers were identified on Wednesday, over 50 of whom were 11 or younger – the cohort not eligible yet for a vaccine.
While a few weeks earlier the new cases often surpassed 5,000 a day, in the past ten days they have remained below 2,000 and are steadily decreasing.
The number of serious patients also continued to drop – standing at 330 on Thursday, less than half a month before.