More Blue and White members enter quarantine after minister catches coronavirus

Following epidemiological investigation, Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir and MK Tehila Friedman join those already isolated after Pnina Tamano-Shata diagnosed with COVID-19

Blue and White MK Asaf Zamir, before becoming tourism minister, at a party faction meeting in Tel Aviv on January 8, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Blue and White MK Asaf Zamir, before becoming tourism minister, at a party faction meeting in Tel Aviv on January 8, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Two more members of Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party entered quarantine on Monday after a party MK was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata was diagnosed with the coronavirus on Sunday, two days after a meeting with the rest of her party.

After epidemiological investigations, Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir and freshman lawmaker Tehila Friedman joined Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn and MK Ayelet Shaked of Yamina, who had announced earlier that they were entering quarantine after meetings with the minister.

The Foreign Ministry said that Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi didn’t need to quarantine.

Other Blue and White lawmakers were told they did not need to enter isolation, despite meeting with Tamano-Shata on Friday.

The first Israeli Jewish woman of Ethiopian origin to be elected to the Knesset, Pnina Tamano Shata, on February 4, 2020, in Hadera. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Tamano-Shata was photographed standing alongside party members on Friday, including party leader Gantz and Ashkenazi. In the photo, all party members are wearing masks, but are not distanced from each other.

The photo was taken outdoors. It was not clear if the party had met indoors, which would significantly increase the risk of infections.

Tamano-Shata informed the Knesset officer of her positive test result on Sunday. She was last in the Knesset on Wednesday, and the Knesset said it was carrying out an epidemiological investigation in coordination with the Health Ministry, Channel 12 reported.

It was not immediately clear when Tamano-Shata caught the virus.

Gantz previously entered quarantine in July after coming into contact with a confirmed coronavirus carrier, but was not infected.

Tamano-Shata is the fourth lawmaker known to have caught the virus. Then-health minister Yaakov Litzman of United Torah Judaism was infected in April, Jerusalem Affairs Minister Rafi Peretz was diagnosed in August, and Joint List MK Sami Abou Shahadeh caught the disease in June, forcing a shutdown of the Knesset.

The development comes ahead of looming deadline to vote on a bill to push off Monday night’s budget deadline by 100 or 120 days, delaying the possibility that Israelis will go to the polls for the fourth time since April 2019.

Nissenkorn, the justice minister, was handling negotiations over the issue for Blue and White. His office said he would continue to work from home.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he would accept a compromise proposal to push off the budget deadline, likely averting the immediate threat of new elections.

The announcement came hours before the Knesset Finance Committee approved the proposal, sponsored by Zvi Hauser of the Derech Eretz party, for its final readings in the plenum on Monday.

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