Cougher near PM at cabinet meet turns out to have been Lapid

Lapid tests positive for COVID as government struggles to control outbreak

Foreign minister says he feels fine, crediting vaccination; becomes most senior Israeli official to contract coronavirus

Yair Lapid, center, yells during a Knesset debate in Jerusalem on January 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yair Lapid, center, yells during a Knesset debate in Jerusalem on January 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has tested positive for coronavirus, his office announced Monday.

Lapid, who also holds the post of alternate prime minister, is quarantining at home and feels well, his office said in a statement.

Israel’s top diplomat confirmed the diagnosis in a tweet, writing “I feel excellent because I’m vaccinated.”

“Go get vaccinated, put on a mask, we’ll get through this together,” he added.

The announcement came after Lapid canceled a faction meeting of his Yesh Atid party earlier in the day due to exposure to a confirmed carrier. He left the Knesset to be tested and head into quarantine.

It also came a day after he attended the weekly cabinet meeting alongside Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other government ministers.

A video of Bennett speaking from the meeting, and setting out the government’s latest COVID measures, ends with someone off-camera to the prime minister’s immediate right coughing loudly, prompting a rueful smile from Bennett as he looks sharply to his right, where Lapid sits. TV reports subsequently established that the cougher was indeed Lapid.

Fellow politicians wished Lapid a speedy recovery.

“I wish Foreign Minister Yair Lapid gets well soon. Health before everything,” tweeted opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

With the diagnosis, Lapid became the most senior Israeli official yet to contract COVID.

Numerous lawmakers have been infected during the Omicron-fueled outbreak currently sweeping Israel, which has pushed daily cases to record highs, though serious morbidity and mortality remain well below that recorded in previous waves.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev was confirmed Sunday to have the virus and several Knesset members tested positive over the weekend.

Last week, Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll — a member of Yesh Atid — tested positive after he was filmed dancing maskless at a New Year’s Eve party.

Lapid later rebuked him, saying public officials had to be particularly fastidious about adhering to COVID guidelines, though Roll maintained he did not break any rules.

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