Officials are worried “a new strain of the delta variant” could force Israel into lockdown, as the country has reached a high number of active cases compared to two months ago, according to The Jerusalem Post.

  • Israel has been a benchmark for a vaccination with one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. According to recent data, 78% of those 12 years old and up are fully vaccinated within the country, per Science Magazine

Israel fears new COVID-19 variant

The strain — which originally came from South America and was identified in the United States — appears to be on the cusp of reaching Israel.

  • “If it reaches Israel, we will get to the lockdown that we so desperately want to avoid,” Dr. Asher Shalmon, director of the Health Ministry’s Department of International Relations, said earlier this week, per The Jerusalem Post.
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Shalmon said the variant is more contagious and resistant to vaccines. However, Israel Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said the full data isn’t available yet.

  • “There have been and there will always be variants,” he said, according to The Jerusalem Post. “I hope they do not reach us, but I do not want to create unnecessary panic. We will have to deal with variants in the future as well.”

Which variant is Israel worried about?

It’s unclear which variant Israel is worried about. However, it could be the lambda variant of the coronavirus, which was first detected in Peru in summer 2020 and has arrived in the United States.

Another layer of COVID-19 vaccine inequality

However, it could also be the “zeta” variant. Earlier in August, The Washington Post reported that the B.1.621 variant — which was originally discovered in Colombia — has made its way to South Florida.

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Dr. Peter Hotez, dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, said the variant could be “zeta.”

  • “I don’t think it has a Greek letter designation yet but based on these properties and the fact that we allowed it to take hold due to low vaccination rates in the South, (and their place in the Greek alphabet), I propose ζ,” he said.
  • The “ζ” symbol represents the word “zeta” in the Greek alphabet.
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