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Three cases of a new Omicron mutant that has emerged in many countries have been detected in Israel, the Health Ministry announced Sunday.

Scientists say the variant – called BA.2.75 – may be able to spread quickly and evade immunity from vaccines and previous infections.

It is unclear whether the new subvariant could cause more severe disease than other Omicron mutations, including the world famous BA.5.

The three cases were detected in people returning from abroad. One of the infected people was returning from India and two others from France, the ministry said.

“The Ministry of Health will continue to monitor the situation and will update the public accordingly,” the statement said.

According to the latest Health Ministry data, 4,357 people tested positive for the virus in Israel on Saturday, with a positive rate of 36.71%. There are currently 435 critically ill patients. The virus has claimed 11,168 lives in Israel since the start of the pandemic.

It is currently more difficult to detect cases of coronavirus among people landing in Israel, as the country stopped requiring incoming travelers, Israelis and foreigners, to take PCR tests upon arrival in May, which means that the actual number of BA.2.75 cases in Israel could potentially be much higher.

So far, the new variant has gained traction mainly in India, where it was first detected in May.

Dubbed “Centaurus”, the relatively new variant has also been detected in other countries, including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and the Netherlands.

“It’s still very early for us to draw too many conclusions,” said Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “But it seems that, especially in India, transmission rates are showing a sort of exponential increase.”

It remains to be seen whether it will surpass BA.5, he said.

Still, the fact that it has already been detected in many parts of the world, even with lower virus surveillance levels “is an early indication that it is spreading,” said Shishi Luo, head of infectious diseases for Helix. , a company that provides viral sequencing. information to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva, told AFP that the spread of BA.2.75 in India indicated that it may be more transmissible than the BA.5 Omicron subvariant. , which caused waves in Europe and around the world. WE.

“It seems to be becoming the dominant strain in India – the question is, will it become the dominant strain anywhere in the world?”

Flahault added that previous dominant strains, like Delta, first took over the country in which they emerged, before spreading across the world.

A health worker administers the Covishield vaccine against COVID-19 at a vaccination center in Hyderabad, India, July 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

Meanwhile, a recent UK study found that the currently predominant BA.5 Omicron subvariant of COVID is more contagious and more resistant to vaccines than previous variants.

Dr. Gregory Poland, head of vaccine research at the US Mayo Clinic, called the Omicron subvariant “hypercontagious” and said there was “very little protection against BA.5 in terms of infection or mild to moderate infection”.

Last week, the European Union said it was “essential” that authorities in the 27-nation bloc consider giving a second coronavirus booster to people aged 60 to 79 and other vulnerable people, so that a new wave of pandemic is breaking. the continent.

In the UN health agency’s weekly review of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization said there were 5.7 million new confirmed infections last week, marking a 6% increase. There were 9,800 deaths, roughly similar to the previous week’s figure.

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