For the first time, it was found that Israelis in the country are infected with variations of the coronavirus spread in South America, the Ministry of Health announced on Monday.
A vaccinated man and baby have been found to carry the Brazilian variant, while the Chilean strain was found in 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. It is also not said whether they are symptomatic.
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In addition, 19 more people have been diagnosed with another mutation that is ravaging India, leading to 60 Israelis found to have the strain, the statement said.
The health ministry said there was still no clear information on the new options or their impact on vaccinated people or those who had already recovered from COVID-1
In light of the findings, the health ministry reiterated its instructions to Israelis not to travel unnecessarily abroad.
Health officials are concerned that as it is not yet known how effective the current COVID-19 vaccines are against new mutations in the virus, an outbreak could occur in Israel that will delay the country’s immunization program, which has managed to reduce daily thousands at the beginning of the year to just a few dozen.
Fears that new variants of the virus could spread to 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 may take connecting flights through these countries, provided that the stay is shorter than 12 hours.
Last week, Israel identified 41 cases of the Indian variant of the coronavirus, including five in children and five among people who had been fully vaccinated.
A senior health official said Wednesday that it was not clear that COVID-19 vaccines offered protection against the Indian version, citing concerns as a key reason why Israel should ban travel to countries with high rates of coronavirus infections.
In addition, five children from five schools were diagnosed with the Indian variant. As the majority of children under the age of 16 have not been vaccinated, this raises fears of a new outbreak, as infections have been steadily declining for several months following the country’s rapid inoculation campaign.
At the end of last month, the Jewish state crossed the border of more than 5 million people who received both vaccines.