Photo Credit: NIAID / NIH
SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus, COVID-19

A new COVID-19 variant, BA.2.12.1, has been identified in Israel just a day after locals began removing their masks indoors.

The BA.2.12.1 sub-strain of the coronavirus is considered more contagious than the recent omicron variant but like omicron, is not particularly severe.

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A laboratory at Ichilov (Sourasky) Medical Center has reported four cases, and a laboratory at Shamir Medical Center reported one so far, according to the Hebrew-language Actualic news site.

Over the past month there has been a significant drop in the number of younger people becoming infected with the virus, with some 58 percent of cases found in adults ages 20 to 59.

The “R” number, however, appears to be rising again, indicating that a possible rise in the infection rate may be on it way.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently estimates that the BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 variants together account for an estimated 93 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the past week.

The BA.2.12.1 variant is one that derived from the BA.2 strain of COVID-19, the main driver of this past winter’s omicron wave, and has exhibited an expert evasion of one’s immune system, although it does appear to be sensitive to antibodies developed from infections during the prior BA.2 wave (omicron).

The good news is that although BA.2.12.1 appears more contagious, it is – like omicron – not nearly as devastating as the Delta variant.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.