With the new COVID-19 variant BA.2.86, nicknamed Pirola, only recently discovered in Israel, there has been some concern whether it would lead to a new wave of infections.
Last week, Israel's Health Ministry reported a 30% spike in daily infections, leading them to instruct public hospitals to do PCR testing on all patients hospitalized in Internal Medicine departments.
The instruction was not received well by hospital chiefs, who complained that the benefits of increased testing were not worth the added work for their staff.
Within a few days, the spike in infections had already dropped.
The latest COVID variant was first discovered in Israel in July, and researchers have continued to attempt tracking its effects and how it is spreading. Some immunologists have noted that the new variant is less infectious than past COVID variants.
Last Monday, Assuta Ashdod Medical Center said the new 'Pirola' variant accounted for over 16% of new cases tested in medical facilities, with some reports saying as much as 20%.
Dr. Neta Zuckerman, director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Genomics at the Central Virology Laboratory, said: “It is too early to make a definitive statement. We are actively monitoring every instance in collaboration with the health intelligence experts at the Ministry of Health. However, due to the limited number of identified cases worldwide, it is challenging to predict its trajectory at this point.”
“This whole thing is still being investigated, so it needs to be approached with great caution, but so far, those who have been infected with it are older individuals who did not require ICU treatment after infection,” said Dr. Elroi Price, head of Israel's public services.
So far, hospitals in Israel are not reporting an increase in severe symptoms with the new variant and the Ministry of Health has held off on introducing any specific guidelines given the many unknowns.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.