Two cases of a new COVID-19 variant have been detected in Israel – but the country’s Health Ministry said it wasn’t concerned.
The strain, combining two sub-variants of the Omicron variant — dubbed BA.1 and BA.2 — was recorded during PCR tests on two passengers who arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, the Times of Israel reported.
“This variant is still unknown around the world,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The two cases of the combined strain, which have been discovered so far, suffered from mild symptoms of fever, headaches and muscle dystrophy, and do not require a special medical response,” it said, adding that it will continue to monitor the novel variant.
Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash told 103FM that the new variant could have originated in Israel.
“It’s likely that they were infected before boarding the flight in Israel. The variant could have emerged here,” he said. “We don’t know what it means yet.”
Israeli COVID-19 czar Salman Zarka seemed to confirm that the new variant was local.
“A young woman infected a baby and both of her parents,” he told Army Radio, not specifying where or when the infections occurred.
“The phenomenon of combined variants is well known,” he said. “At this point, we’re not concerned about [the new variant leading to] serious cases.”
More than 4 million people out of Israel’s population of 9.2 million have received three jabs of the vaccine. Almost 1.4 million COVID-19 cases, including 8,244 deaths, have been recorded in the country.
The government announced this month that it would provide fourth doses to people over 60 and health workers, amid a surge driven by the Omicron variant.