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Defense minister in quarantine after staffer he flew with contracts COVID

Stressing that Gantz did not sit next to the aide on the US flight, his office says he is not obligated to isolate but will be doing so as a precautionary measure

Defense Minister Benny Gantz sitting behind a glass partition in the Knesset plenary hall, December 15, 2021. (Noam Moshkowitz/Knesset)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz sitting behind a glass partition in the Knesset plenary hall, December 15, 2021. (Noam Moshkowitz/Knesset)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced Wednesday that he had entered a self-imposed quarantine after discovering that an aide who flew with him to the United States this week had tested positive for coronavirus.

According to a statement from Gantz’s office, the staffer tested negative for the virus in PCR tests both before and after the trip, but came up as positive in a test taken two days later when he sought permission to leave quarantine.

Stressing that the aide did not sit next to Gantz on the flight, the statement said that Gantz was not obligated to isolate and would be doing so only as a “precautionary measure.”

Gantz will remain in quarantine until he receives the results of further PCR tests since taken for him and his staff. He was present in the Knesset on Wednesday afternoon, however, attending the plenum in an isolation booth after the opposition refused to offset coalition votes.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tested negative for COVID-19 after a passenger on his flight back to Israel from the United Arab Emirates earlier this week tested positive for the coronavirus a day earlier.

Bennett arrived back in Israel on Monday after his landmark trip as the first Israeli prime minister to visit the Gulf nation.

Travelers are seen arriving at Ben Gurion Airport, on November 1, 2021.(Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

He flew to the UAE with a scaled-down delegation that did not include journalists because of concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Bennett has been quarantined since his arrival back in Israel, although he was present in the Knesset on Monday evening, where he attended the plenum in an isolation booth after the opposition refused to offset coalition votes.

The government has tightened travel restrictions and quarantine requirements due to fears of the Omicron strain.

Although Israel’s skies ostensibly remain open, foreign tourists are banned from entry, and the list of red countries — to which travel is banned — is updated daily, a move that could reduce flights abroad by making it difficult to plan trips in advance.

Israelis have been urged to refrain from nonessential travel. However, numerous ministers and lawmakers from both the opposition and coalition have been in the United States for a conference in recent days, and Bennett’s wife and children recently went on vacation.

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