Novel AY4.2 COVID Delta variant identified in 11-year-old Israeli

The "Delta Plus" strand has been on the rise in the UK, with British authorities reporting 6% of the positive cases on Tuesday belonging to the AY4.2 strand, according to a Maariv report.

Medical technicians test passengers for COVID-19 at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on March 8, 2021.  (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
Medical technicians test passengers for COVID-19 at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on March 8, 2021.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

An 11-year-old Israeli boy returning from Moldova to Israel has been identified as COVID positive, carrying the novel Delta variant AY4.2, the only recorded case in Israel of the new strand of the coronavirus.

The child was detected in Ben-Gurion Airport upon his arrival and has since been in self-isolation, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

The "Delta Plus" strand has been on the rise in the UK, with British authorities reporting 6% of the positive cases on Tuesday belonging to the AY4.2 strand, according to a Maariv report.

The variant has been detected in several European countries, but its properties are still unclear. 

"It is potentially a marginally more infectious strain," Prof. Francois Balloux, director of University College London's Genetics Institute, said to the BBC.

 Scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as novel coronavirus (credit: U.S. NIAID-RML/Handout via REUTERS) Scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as novel coronavirus (credit: U.S. NIAID-RML/Handout via REUTERS)

"It is likely to be up to 10% more transmissible. It's good that we are aware. It's excellent that we have the facilities and infrastructure in place to see anything that might be a bit suspicious."

Britain's government is keeping a "very close eye" on rising level of COVID-19 infections, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesperson said on Tuesday. 

"At this stage, I would say wait and see, don't panic," concluded Prof. Balloux. "It might be slightly, subtly more transmissible but it is not something absolutely disastrous like we saw previously."

No other cases have been identified, the Israeli Health Ministry assured, and the epidemiological investigation is underway.

The Health Ministry is constantly monitoring new variants and developments, the statement concluded.

Reuters contributed to this report.