The Israeli Health Ministry on Monday warned that new coronavirus variants from abroad could force Israel into a lockdown that the government is working hard to avoid, with the Lambda variant posing a particularly pressing threat.
During a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to approve new measures for travel from abroad, a top ministry official warned of the Lambda variant that has rampaged across South America and crossed into the US.
“If it arrives in Israel we will go into the lockdown that we are so much trying to avoid,” Asher Salmon, director of the International Relations Department at the Health Ministry, told the committee.
Israeli Health Ministry figures released Monday showed 5,083 new virus cases were identified the day before. Of the 50,693 active cases, 531 are in serious condition. The death toll since the start of the pandemic was 6,673.
“In this study, we demonstrated that three mutations, the RSYLTPGD246-253N, L452Q and F490S mutations, respectively confer resistance to the vaccine-induced antiviral immunity. Additionally, the T76I and L452Q mutations contribute to enhanced viral infectivity. Our data suggest that there are at least two virological features on the Lambda variant: increasing viral infectivity (by the T76I and L452Q mutations) and exhibiting resistance to antiviral immunity (by the RSYLTPGD246-253N, L452Q and F490S mutations).”
We report the emergence of a novel lineage of SARS-CoV-2 in South America, termed C.37. It presents seven nonsynonymous mutations in the Spike gene (Δ247-253, G75V, T76I, L452Q, F490S, T859N) and a deletion in the ORF1a gene (Δ3675-3677) also found in variants of concern (VOCs) Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. Initially reported in Lima, Peru, in late December 2020, it now accounts for 97% of Peruvian public genomes in April 2021. It is expanding in Chile and Argentina, and there is evidence of onward transmission in Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, the USA, Germany, and Israel. On June 15, 2021, the World Health Organization designated C.37 as Variant of Interest (VOI) Lambda.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that the coronavirus variant of COVID-19, commonly known as C.37, has been named Lambda. Lambda has been identified in 29 countries, most notably in South America where it is believed to have originated.
First identified in Peru, the Lambda lineage was classified as a global Variant of Interest on Monday due to an “elevated prevalence” in South America, the WHO said in its weekly update.
Lambda has been rampant in Peru where 81 percent of COVID-19 cases since April 2021 were associated with this variant, authorities reported.
In Chile, it was detected in 32 percent of all submitted sequences in the last 60 days, and only outclassed by the Gamma (P.1) variant which was first identified in Brazil. Other countries such as Argentina and Ecuador have also reported elevated prevalence of the new variant.
The WHO reported that the Lambda lineage carries mutations that might increase transmissibility or strengthen the virus’s resistance to antibodies.
However, evidence is too limited for the moment, the Geneva-based organization said, and more studies are required to understand better the Lambda variant.
** Our opinion: At the moment, the Sars-CoV-2 infection numbers in South America seem to be declining after peaking in June 2021. The Delta variant seems to be more of a threat internationally when you compare Latin America infection figures with the UK figures for example **
Lineage prevalence in Peru:
As of the early hours of this Saturday, 12th June 2021, Santiago de Chile has once again entered quarantine. The entire region begins with the mobility restriction measure when 57.8% of the country’s target population has completed their covid-19 vaccination schedule, but ICUs are on the brink of collapse.
According to the latest figures provided by the Undersecretary of Health, Paula Daza, the occupation of critical beds reaches 96% nationwide. But the vast majority of seriously ill patients are not immunized and there is a worrying decrease in the age of patients admitted to critical beds. Patients under 50 years of age in ICUs have tripled compared to the worst moment of last year, according to ICOVID, an initiative led by the University of Chile, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and the University of Concepción based on official data . The deaths reach 38,685, between confirmed and suspected.
El Pais report (in Spanish)
Lineage chart courtesy of Outbreak.info
Daily cases chart courtesy of OurworldinData.org
Peru said its Covid-19 death toll is actually almost three times as high as it had officially counted until now. The new figure would rank Peru as one of the world’s hardest-hit countries relative to its population.
The new death toll is estimated at 180,764 through May 22, according to a report released on Monday by cabinet ministers and health officials in Lima, the capital. That is almost triple the official death toll of about 68,000. President Francisco Sagasti is expected to endorse the new death estimate.
The “strong presence” of the C-37 coronavirus variant in Peru since last April has been confirmed, resulting in three variants in total, Health Minister Oscar Ugarte announced on Monday. According to the government official, this new variant could have caused the peak in COVID-19 cases during the second wave.
“The studies carried out by the National Institute of Health (INS) and the Epidemiology Center of the Ministry of Health (Minsa) have confirmed the presence of a new variant in the country: the C-37 […] a strong presence has been observed since April,” he said at a press conference.
C.37: Novel lineage expanding in Peru and Chile, with a convergent deletion in the ORF1a gene (Δ3675-3677) and a novel deletion in the Spike gene (Δ246-252, G75V, T76I, L452Q, F490S, T859N)