For the first time, Israelis in the country were found infected with variations of coronavirus that have spread in South America, the health ministry said Monday.
A vaccinated man and a baby were found to have the Brazilian variant, while the Chilean tribe was found with another vaccinated adult, the ministry said in a statement.
All three had returned from abroad, although the ministry did not specify which countries they came from. Nor did it say whether they were symptomatic.
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In addition, a further 19 people have been diagnosed with another mutation that is destroying India, bringing to the number of Israelis who have found that strain, the statement said.
The Ministry of Health said there was still no clear information on the new variants or their impact on vaccinated people or those who have already recovered from COVID-1
In light of the findings, the Ministry of Health reiterated its instruction to Israelis not to take unnecessary trips abroad.
Health officials are concerned that as it is still unknown how effective current COVID-19 vaccines are against new mutations of the virus, there may be an outbreak in Israel that puts back the country’s immunization program, which has managed to reduce daily case loads from thousands at the beginning of the year to just a few dozen.
Fears that the new variants of the virus could spread in Israel led to an order from the Ministry of Health banning Israelis from traveling to India, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Ukraine, Ethiopia or Turkey unless specifically authorized. Israelis can take connecting flights through these countries, provided the stay is shorter than 12 hours.
Last week, Israel identified 41 cases of the Indian coronavirus variant, including five in children and five among people who were fully vaccinated.
A senior health official said on Wednesday that it was not clear that COVID-19 vaccines provide protection against the Indian variant and cited the concern as a major reason why Israel had to ban travel to countries with high coronavirus infection rates.
In addition, five children from five schools were diagnosed with the Indian variant. As the vast majority of children under 16 are not vaccinated, this has given rise to fears of a new outbreak after infections have fallen steadily for several months following the country’s rapid vaccination campaign.
Late last month, the Jewish state crossed the milestone with over 5 million people receiving both vaccine shots.