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Knesset guard tests positive for Omicron strain, sending MK, 20 staff to quarantine

United Torah Judaism lawmaker Meir Porush told to self-isolate after contact with security personnel found to have new coronavirus variant

MK Meir Porush, right, in the Knesset, on July 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Meir Porush, right, in the Knesset, on July 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A security guard at the Knesset has tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the Knesset spokesperson said Thursday afternoon.

The guard has not been at work since Sunday, according to the spokesperson, but 21 other security and Knesset personnel, as well as United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush, have been instructed to enter quarantine.

Earlier Thursday, Porush accompanied new United States Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides during a visit to Bnei Brak.

According to new regulations, people who have come in direct contact with an Omicron carrier must isolate for three days, even if they are fully vaccinated.

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

Channel 12 news reported that the aide later tested positive for the Omicron variant.

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

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.

A day earlier, 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.

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.

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

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 US for a conference in recent days, and Bennett’s wife and children recently went on vacation.

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