Photo Credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90
Returning Israelis land in Ben Gurion International, March 20, 2020.

The first study in Israel that sequenced the coronavirus genetic code and compared it to the coronavirus genetic codes worldwide has revealed that 70% of the contagion chains in Israel started with the virus that traveled over via the United States. The rest of the cases came mainly via European countries, most notably Belgium and France.

The researchers compared the genomic sequences found in patients in Israel to 4,700 genomic sequences from different countries in the world, based of some 200 patients.


Dr. Adi Stern, who conducted the research at Tel Aviv University, told News 12 that the findings emphasize the need for border closure and social segregation to control of the pandemic in Israel. “If we talk about what’s next – it’s very important to close the borders as soon as a virus entry is detected from outside. It all depends on the efficiency and effectiveness of the closure.”

The virus’s genetic code changes during the infection of one person by another. These are small mutations that give researchers a kind of bar code that helps identify how the virus spreads. Most of the infections in Israel came from people who came over from the United States. In infected arrivals from European countries the distribution is: 8% of the cases came from Belgium, France 6%, England 5% followed by Spain, Italy, Australia, the Philippines and Russia.

Hardly any of Israel’s infections came from China or South Korea. Also none from Singapore, which, like Israel, banned flights in the early stages of crisis management. But, apparently, in Israel, when dozens of returning Israelis were arriving from NYC airports in March, few controls were in place at the time to make sure they enter isolation.

On the other hand, Israeli passengers of the infamous coronavirus cruise ship Diamond Princess who were brought straight to isolation when they returned from Japan did not spread the virus.

For the record, the first coronavirus arrived in Israel only at the end of January, not before.

According to the study, 5% of Israeli patients caused 80% of all the infections.

The arrivals from the United States included a number of “super infectors” – individual patients who traveled to many locations in country, did not obey the guidelines and contributed to mass infection. According to the study, 5% of Israeli patients caused 80% of all the infections.

The numerous flights that landed in Israel from New York have a significant connection to the spread of the virus in the Jewish state. Researchers have two explanations: First, the demand for isolation of those returning from the United States was issued a hopping 39 days after flights from China had been banned. And then, the anti-social behavior of Israelis who were allowed back from the United States contributed to the spread of the virus. The study shows that some of them did not comply with the isolation guidelines.


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