Saturday, September 18th | 12 Tishri 5782

September 12, 2021 11:36 am

Israel Plans COVID-19 Genetic Scanning at Airport as ‘Radar’ for Next Variant

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Travellers carry their luggage at the arrivals terminal in Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport, amid a spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), near Tel Aviv, Israel July 8, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israel is working on a genetic scanning mechanism to be used for anyone passing through Ben Gurion International airport amid concern that the “next variant” will enter the country via air travel.

“I call it ‘the Omega,’” Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at a government cabinet meeting. “We are working on a mechanism of genetic scanning for everyone who enters Israel. In this way, Israel will become a radar for the virus.”

According to sources in the Prime Minister’s Office quoted by Israel’s Walla news, the program is in very preliminary stages of testing. The aim is to set up a special laboratory to test all arrivals at the airport, using a method of genetic sequencing to verify if new variants of the coronavirus are present.

The plan comes after Israel’s Health Ministry reported that about 1,400 Israelis out of nearly 17,000 who returned from the city of Uman in Ukraine over the weekend tested positive. Tens of  thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews travel to Uman for the Rosh Hashanah holiday to pray near the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.

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Bennett has been spearheading a country-wide campaign in recent weeks for Israelis to get vaccinated, and for those already inoculated to get a booster doses. Almost three million citizens have already been vaccinated with the third dose.

Meanwhile, Bennett lamented: “Our tolerance for people who do not get vaccinated has run out.”

“Those who have been inoculated with a booster are eleven times more protected than those who have not been,” he said.

Bennett added that reports from the heads of coronavirus departments at Israeli hospitals showed that the “vast majority of those who are currently hospitalized in serious condition are people who have not been vaccinated properly.”

Bennett mentioned two non-vaccinated people, a 21-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman, who died over the past few days after contracting the disease.

“As we are speaking, two 40-year-old unvaccinated women are fighting for their lives,” he said. “This is simply unnecessary. It is unnecessary death and an unnecessary disease. It is heart-rending and it does not need to be like this.”

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