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Israel Warns of Emergency on New Strain11/26 06:10


   JERUSALEM (AP) -- Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel is "on the 
threshold of an emergency situation" on Friday after authorities detected the 
country's first case of a new coronavirus variant in a traveler who returned 
from Malawi.

   The Health Ministry said the traveler and two other suspected cases, all of 
whom had been vaccinated, were placed in isolation.

   A new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists 
say is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among 
young people in Gauteng, the country's most populous province.

   At a Cabinet meeting convened Friday to discuss the new variant, Israeli 
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said it is more contagious and spreads more 
rapidly than the delta variant. He said authorities were still gathering 
information on whether it evades vaccines or is deadlier.

   "We are currently at the threshold of an emergency situation," he said. "I 
ask everyone to be prepared and to fully join in the work around the clock."

   Late Thursday, Israel declared South Africa and six other African nations to 
be "red countries" from which foreign nationals are barred from traveling to 
Israel. Israelis are prohibited from visiting those countries and those 
returning from them must undergo a period of isolation.

   Israel launched one of the world's first and most successful vaccination 
campaigns late last year, and nearly half the population has received a booster 
shot. Israel recently expanded the campaign to include children as young as 5.

   But the country only recently managed to contain a wave of infections driven 
by the highly contagious delta variant.

   Israel has reported at least 8,182 deaths since the start of the pandemic. 
It currently has more than 7,000 active cases, including 120 who are seriously 
ill, according to the Health Ministry.

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