Israel warns of ’emergency’ after discovering new virus strain

Israel’s prime minister says it is “on the verge of an emergency” after authorities discovered the country’s first case of a new coronavirus variant in a traveler returning from Malawi

JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel is “on the verge of an emergency” on Friday after authorities discovered the country’s first case of a new coronavirus variant in a traveler returning from Malawi.

The Ministry of Health said the traveler and two other suspects, all of whom had been vaccinated, were placed in solitary confinement.

A new variant of coronavirus has been discovered in South Africa, as scientists say, is a concern due to its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.

“We are currently on the verge of an emergency,” he said. “I ask everyone to be prepared and participate fully in the work around the clock.”

Late Thursday, Israel declared South Africa and six other African nations to be “red countries” from which foreign nationals are barred from traveling to Israel. Israelis are forbidden to visit these countries, and those who return from them must go through a period of isolation.

Israel launched one of the world’s first and most successful vaccination campaigns at the end of last year, and almost half of the population has been given a booster shot. Israel recently expanded the campaign to include children as young as 5 years old.

But the country only recently managed to curb a wave of infections driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

Israel has reported at least 8,182 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. It currently has more than 7,000 active cases, including 120 who are seriously ill, according to the health ministry.

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