Professor Nachman Ash: 'Indian variant already spreading within Israel'

Israel needs to make greater efforts to prevent entry of coronavirus cases, coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash says.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Professor Nachman Ash
Professor Nachman Ash
David Cohen/Flash90

Professor Nachman Ash, Israel's coronavirus czar, on Thursday afternoon spoke about the plan for the upcoming Lag Ba'omer holiday, which begins Thursday evening.

In an interview with Reshet Bet, Prof. Ash said, "We created a plan together with the police and Religious Affairs Ministry. Yesterday it was approved and they will act in accordance with it. I very much hope that it will be possible to enforce the plan, thereby reducing the risk. In any case, such a large gathering carries a risk."

"In the ministerial meeting Wednesday, it was decided not to make rules but we are acting in accordance with the agreed-upon plan, which includes gatherings as per the Green Badge as well. We cannot check the Green Badge on Mount Meron with the number of people who will be there."

Prof. Ash also explained why all flights from India had not been stopped: "At this moment, we are working on guidelines. A complete closure of all flights to and from [India] is not possible, because there are still essential foreigners and Israelis who need to return. We have closed the option for Israelis to leave. That is a safe enough plan, together with the quarantine."

"The Indian variant has been here since mid-March, and there is already infection from within the community," he said. "At the moment, we won't backtrack on loosening the restrictions within Israel. The number of confirmed cases is dropping; this variant has not increased infection rates. That means that we need to make greater efforts at the airport and on the borders in general - but here as well, within proportion."

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry's national system for sequencing the genomes of coronavirus samples identified 41 instances of the Indian variant, 24 of them among recent arrivals from abroad, including 21 foreigners. Another 17 cases were identified in the community, and some had no connection to travel abroad. Four of those confirmed to have contracted the Indian variant are vaccinated, and the other 37 are unvaccinated.

Among the confirmed cases are five schoolchildren from different schools. The Health Ministry is working with the Home Front Command to conduct widescale testing in the affected schools. The Ministry noted that there is not yet clear information on the Indian variant and its consequences for those who are vaccinated or recovered from coronavirus.