Minister Rafi Peretz in isolation after adviser tests positive for virus

A day after Gantz is quarantined, Jewish Home MK says he too came into contact with a carrier of the coronavirus

Then Education Minister Rafi Peretz speaks during a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, March 12, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Then Education Minister Rafi Peretz speaks during a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, March 12, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Jewish Home MK Rafi Peretz, the minister for Jerusalem affairs and heritage, entered quarantine on Thursday after a member of his staff was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

According to a statement from his office, Peretz most recently met with the adviser on Tuesday last week.

“The minister feels good and will take a coronavirus test and follow the Health Ministry’s instructions. In addition, all advisers and office workers who came into contact with the same adviser will also enter isolation,” the minister’s spokesperson said in a statement.

Peretz is not the first minister to go into into isolation this week — Defense Minister Benny Gantz entered isolation on Wednesday after coming into contact with a confirmed coronavirus carrier.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“Gantz feels good and will continue to manage the ministry’s matters and the rest of his public work from isolation,” his office said.

According to his spokesperson, Gantz came into contact with the confirmed coronavirus carrier, a family member, a week and a half ago, last Sunday evening.

His office said special equipment and software would be installed in his home to allow him to continue working on sensitive defense-related matters.

Several other senior public officials have had to enter self-isolation for fear that they had contracted the virus.

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on June 7, 2020. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

On Saturday, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana entered quarantine after the head of the Border Police force tested positive for COVID-19. Ohana said he had decided to voluntarily self-isolate out of an abundance of caution, even though his two meetings with Border Police Commander Yaakov Shabtai did not meet the Health Ministry standards requiring quarantine.

As public security minister, Ohana oversees the police, who have taken on a central role in Israel’s fight against the coronavirus by being tasked with enforcing rules mandating mask-wearing and self-quarantine orders.

Other ministers and top military officials have been forced into quarantine during various times since the start of the pandemic, though only two lawmakers — then-health minister Yaakov Litzman and Joint List MK Sami Abou Shahadeh — have tested positive for the virus.

Magen David Adom paramedics in protective gear bring a patient suspected of having COVID-19 to the coronavirus unit at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer on July 8, 2020. (Flash90)

The last few weeks have seen the reversal of many of the gains made in the fight against the coronavirus in recent months. New daily virus cases, which had dropped to low double digits through most of May, have soared to over a thousand a day, and the number of active cases has reached an all-time high.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday Israel was again in the midst of a “major outbreak” as the number of active coronavirus cases in Israel passed 10,000 for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Health Ministry said Wednesday night that there were 1,014 new infections in Israel since midnight Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 33,557. The ministry reported two more deaths, bringing the total to 344.

On Tuesday, there were 1,348 new infections, the Health Ministry said, which appeared to be the highest single-day total since the outbreak began.

According to ministry figures, as of Wednesday night there were 14,875 active virus cases, including 113 people in serious condition, and 39 people on ventilators, an increase of four in the past day. Another 82 people were in moderate condition and the rest have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.

The number of serious cases has been steadily increasing since the start of the current outbreak. Two weeks ago Israel had 45 serious coronavirus patients. On Thursday the number stood at 65, it then jumped to 86 on Tuesday evening, and leaped overnight to 107 Wednesday morning.

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