The Israeli government revealed this Thursday that it has detected a first case of the new AY4.2 variant of the covid-19 coronavirus, a subvariant of the delta variant, which has already been identified in several European countries, including Portugal and the United Kingdom.
According to the Israeli Ministry of Health, the first case of this subvariant is associated with an 11-year-old child from Europe, who is in quarantine, and was detected at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.
“The AY4.2 variant, which has been discovered in several European countries, has been identified in Israel,” the ministry said in a statement, clarifying that no more cases have been detected since then.
In Portugal, nine cases of the AY4.2 variant have already been detected, according to the most recent report by the National Institute of Health Doctor Ricardo Jorge on the genetic diversity of the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, dated Tuesday.
“A genetic analysis indicates that the cases detected in Portugal, between August 24 and October 4, represent several independent introductions of the virus, such as those under investigation by health authorities”, the report says.
More cases and a new variant in the UK
In the UK, where the number of new infections is on the rise, approaching the levels of the violent wave that hit the country last winter, health authorities are monitoring the new strain, which is spreading.
According to the Minister of Health, Sajid Javid, “there is no reason to believe, at this time, that it poses a greater risk”.
Despite the increase in new cases and hospital pressure, the British government on Wednesday rejected calls to tighten restrictions, such as the use of masks indoors and telecommuting, opting to give priority to vaccination.
The new variant, rare and apparently without increased risk of contagion against delta, the most transmissible of the SARS-CoV-2 variants in circulation, was discovered in Israel when that country was being considered to lift some restrictions in place, in particular those aimed at tourism.
Faced with the appearance of the AY4.2 variant, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett instructed that the epidemiological investigation of this Delta subvariant be reinforced and that the countries where it had already been identified were contacted to exchange information. Any changes in the rules for the entry of tourists into the country will be considered.