Dr. Sharon Alray-Price
Dr. Sharon Alray-PriceOlivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Head of Public Health Services, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, participated in Sunday morning’s meeting of the Knesset Legislative Committee, contributing to its discussion of renewed restrictions placed on the population in the wake of the discovery of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

During the course of the discussion, Alroy-Preis revealed that the Omicron variant appears to have first emerged in October. “It was first sequenced in South Africa, and also in Hong Kong, in people who had returned from trips to South Africa,” she said. “This is a variant of extreme concern due to the large number of very unusual mutations it has, precisely in the regions we are worried about; it has 38 mutations in the spike protein.

“It has the potential of spreading extremely widely,” Alroy-Preis added. “On a certain flight to the Netherlands, for example, 32 people out of the 600 on board were found to be carrying Covid-19, and of those 32, 13 had the Omicron variant. We have also heard reports of fully vaccinated people contracting this new variant and showing mild symptoms.

“So far, we have no information on how the new variant will affect mortality rates in general,” she noted. “But what I can say is that mortality rates in South Africa are doubling.”