Israel health minister contracts Covid-19, Netanyahu back in isolation

Reuters TEL AVIV | Updated on April 08, 2020 Published on April 02, 2020

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is returning to self-isolation for another six days after his health minister was diagnosed with coronavirus, the premier's office said on Thursday.

Netanyahu, 70, the nation's longest-serving leader, had just ended two days of isolation on Wednesday night after a parliamentary aide was diagnosed with the disease.

He immediately went on national TV to announce new measures to curb the epidemic.

But his office said the prime minister would self-isolate again - for six days this time - in line with medical recommendations after Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and his wife tested positive for coronavirus.

Litzman, 71, has appeared regularly alongside the premier to give coronavirus updates. Netanyahu tested negative on Monday.

Several other senior officials were also self-isolating due to contact with Litzman.

The head of Israel's foreign intelligence agency Mossad, Yossi Cohen, will self-isolate at the intelligence agency's headquarters for three days, Israeli media reported.

And the health ministry's director-general Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov announced via Twitter his self-isolation at a facility at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv.

Israeli regulations generally require 14-day self-isolation for anyone in proximity to a carrier, with the duration reduced for the days passed since the suspected exposure.

Israel has reported at least 29 deaths and more than 6,200 infections. Tight curbs have confined Israelis to their homes, forcing businesses to close and sending unemployment over 24%.

In a statement, the health ministry said Litzman and his wife were feeling well despite having the coronavirus.

Litzman heads an ultra-Orthodox Jewish party and has urged his community to obey curbs after some rabbis and members cast doubt on risks and chafed against stay-at-home orders.

Israeli officials describe the ultra-Orthodox as especially prone to contagion because their districts tend to be poor and congested.

Netanyahu announced new curbs on Wednesday to deter movement around Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish town that has suffered a disproportionately large outbreak.

“The situation there is horrible. Every day we stall, we put lives at risk,” Litzman said in an interview published on Tuesday in the Yedioth Ahronot newspaper.

“The public now has to listen to the health ministry.”

Published on April 02, 2020

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