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Former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau tests positive for coronavirus

Announcement comes after spiritual leader received 2nd dose of vaccine, which only becomes 95% effective a number of days after the follow-up shot

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau receives a COVID-19 vaccine, at Tel Aviv's Sourasky Medical Center  on December 20, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau receives a COVID-19 vaccine, at Tel Aviv's Sourasky Medical Center on December 20, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau tested positive for coronavirus, it was announced on Saturday, days after he received the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

It is not immediately clear when Lau, 83, was infected with the virus, but he may well have contracted it before receiving the second dose as the virus usually takes some time to show up in tests, or before the vaccine became fully effective.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which is being used in Israel is around 52% effective after the first dose, which increases to about 95% a number of days after the second dose.

Lau was reportedly feeling well and did not have any symptoms.

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, attends a ceremony for a new Torah scroll brought to the synagogue of the Knesset on June 9, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to a tweet from his grandson, Lau was believed to have contracted the virus from his wife who herself caught it a week earlier. There were no details given on her condition.

Lau was vaccinated on the first day of the national rollout of the vaccine and urged members of the ultra-Orthodox community, which has been hit disproportionately hard in the pandemic, to get inoculated.

“You must not be afraid,” he said at the time. “Vaccination is an obligation for all of us.”

Over 2 million Israelis have already received the first shot of the vaccine, and nearly 225,000 have been administered the second dose. By late March, Israel will have vaccinated 5.2 million citizens against the coronavirus, according to a plan drawn up by the Health Ministry.

Coinciding with the launch of the vaccination campaign has been a surge in coronavirus cases, with some 9,000 daily new infections diagnosed in recent days.

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