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New Omicron Sub-variants Drive Rise in COVID Cases in Israel

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  • New Omicron Sub-variants Drive Rise in COVID Cases in Israel

    Jun. 8, 2022 7:57 PM

    Ido Efrati

    A combination of several offshoots of the omicron variant, which contributed to a spike in infection rates over the winter, are behind recent rise in COVID cases, figures show. Expert says they may be more infectious, but not necessarily lead to serious illness.

    Israel's COVID czar said on Wednesday that the rise in coronavirus cases in the country can be attributed to BA.5, an offshoot of the omicron variant. But the rising figures – after months of relatively low infection – are caused by several variants, according to a breakdown of new cases and health experts.

    The omicron variant that was behind a surge in infection rates this past winter was BA.1. After that wave subsided, cases rose again in April due to BA.2, which is 30 percent more infectious than its predecessor.

    That variant remained dominant throughout May, and as of the end of the month, it accounted for 65 percent of diagnosed cases, with the rest stemming from other variants in the omicron family.

    The BA.5 sub-variant accounted for 15 percent of diagnosed cases as of the end of May and BA.2.12.1 variant accounted to 12 percent of cases. Around five percent of the cases registered until the end of May were attributed to BA.4.

    Prof. Cyrille Cohen, the head of Bar-Ilan University’s immunotherapy lab, said that omicron’s split into several sub-variants had been expected, “because the original omicron variant was very infectious and many people were exposed to it.” New variants develop in the body, he explained, so the greater the number of people who are infected, the greater the chances of the virus mutating.

    ... On Wednesday, Israeli health experts recommended reinstating mask mandate indoors in the wake of rising COVID infections. The Health Ministry pandemic taskforce refrained from recommending administrating a fifth vaccine shot and said an ongoing monitoring of the situation is needed.

    The number of new cases rose Wednesday to 4,585 from 3,731 the previous day – the highest number since April 25.