5th MK enters quarantine after exposure to virus carrier
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5th MK enters quarantine after exposure to virus carrier

Moshe Abutbul of Shas says Health Ministry told him that he and his son must isolate themselves after being near MRI technician with coronavirus

Shas MK Moshe Abutbul at the Knesset on September 25, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shas MK Moshe Abutbul at the Knesset on September 25, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A Knesset member from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party went into self-quarantine Thursday after being near a carrier of the coronavirus, making him the fifth lawmaker in Israel forced to isolate at home.

MK Moshe Abutbul said he and his son, who has also gone into isolation, were both at the MRI department last week at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, where one of the technicians has been confirmed as a COVID-19 patient.

He said he received a call from the Health Ministry Thursday morning informing him that he and his son must quarantine until Monday night.

“The MK immediately carried out this order and called on the beloved public to listen to all Health Ministry orders and to the rabbis, may they live a good long life,” a statement from Abutbul said.

It was not clear from the statement how the Health Ministry knew Abutbul was near the technician. On Wednesday, the ministry began using a controversial mass surveillance program to retrace the movements of coronavirus carriers and inform people in contact with them they must enter quarantine.

Shas party leader Aryeh Deri arrives at the Knesset for a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 3, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Abutbul’s entering into quarantine came after Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, the leader of Shas, was one of four lawmakers forced to isolate themselves Tuesday after they met with a southern mayor who was later confirmed as a coronavirus carrier.

The other lawmakers were Likud Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and Blue and White MKs Ram Ben-Barak and Alon Shuster.

Both Deri and Shuster have tested negative for the virus, according to Hebrew media reports Thursday.

Three of the four lawmakers, Hanegbi, Ben-Barak and Shuster, had already faced potential quarantine after meeting with Knesset director-general Albert Saharovich on Monday. Saharovich’s wife was found to have contracted the virus and he himself subsequently tested positive for it as well.

When Knesset officials learned of the diagnosis of Saharovich’s wife — but before he was diagnosed as well — it asked the three not to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the 23rd Knesset.

The Blue and White lawmakers stayed away, but Hanegbi entered parliament despite the Knesset order. He wandered around the parliament building and was spotted in the cafeteria meeting with Blue and White MKs Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel. Hanegbi’s office claimed in a statement that the minister received just 10 minutes’ notice before the swearing-in, at which point he was already in the Knesset.

The Knesset was reportedly weighing testing all MKs for the coronavirus in light of recent events.

Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanahu and President Reuven Rivlin have tested negative for the virus.

Benjamin Netanyahu, right, elbow bumps Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem on March 15, 2020. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Monday’s ceremony saw members of the 23rd Knesset take their oaths in batches of three as a health precaution. There were no additional guests invited to the ceremony and the Knesset Guard was administering fever tests outside the parliament.

Israel has banned all gatherings of over 10 people to stem the outbreak, which has infected over 529 Israelis as of Thursday afternoon.

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