Israel ‘on verge of emergency’ over B.1.1.529 Covid variant – PM

The Israeli government will act “fast and strong” in its fight against the new Covid variant, as the country is now “on the verge of an emergency,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has stated.

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Bennett held an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the required measures, after a case of the B.1.1.529 variant, which is currently concentrated in southern Africa, was discovered in Israel the day prior. Quoted by the Jerusalem Post, the prime minister said Israel was “on the verge of an emergency,” and asked citizens “to be fully prepared and harnessed for work around the clock.”

Earlier on Friday, Bennett posted a series of tweets saying “the new variant [was] highly contagious at a much faster rate than Delta” while noting that full information was not yet available.

Claiming that taking “fast and strong” actions remained the government’s policy, he called on all unvaccinated people, both adults and children, to get inoculated.

The prime minister also noted that, though a few weeks ago the national Omega exercise for a new deadly variant scenario may have “seemed a little detached,” it had prepared the country for the current situation, with the first registered case of a new variant having been brought to Israel from Malawi and two other cases under review.

Along with several other countries, Israel has announced urgent measures to tackle the new variant, including designating South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Eswatini as “red countries,” and applying travel restrictions.

The World Health Organization has raised serious concerns with regard to the new variant because of how heavily mutated it is, likely making it more vaccine-resistant than other strains.

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