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Netanyahu enters quarantine for 3rd time; set to be 1st to vaccinate Sat. night

Prime minister, found negative for COVID-19 in two diagnostic tests, to self-isolate until Friday

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint press conference at the Ministry of Health in Jerusalem on December 9, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint press conference at the Ministry of Health in Jerusalem on December 9, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will enter quarantine until Friday after meeting a person who was later confirmed to be a carrier of coronavirus, his office said Monday afternoon.

Netanyahu underwent virus tests on Sunday and Monday and came out negative for the virus, the statement added.

Several Hebrew media outlets reported that Netanyahu required quarantine after meeting last week with former Likud MK Michael Kleiner, who has subsequently tested positive for the virus.

This is the third time that Netanyahu has been forced into quarantine since the start of the pandemic over exposure to sick staff members.

In recent days, the prime minister has said he would like to become the first Israeli to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which could happen as early as Saturday night.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, via video conference, July 24, 2020 (IDF)

Following the Monday announcement, Netanyahu tweeted that he is “continuing to work around the clock to bring millions of vaccines to the citizens of Israel and to strengthen our economy.”

He advised the public to, “Follow the guidelines and stay healthy!”

On Sunday, the Prime Minister’s Office said that a secretary on Netanyahu’s staff had contracted COVID-19 but that the premier would not need to self-isolate due to having not come in contact with her while she was infectious.

That came days after Netanyahu attended an event with Likud MK David Bitan, who was later diagnosed with the coronavirus and was hospitalized on Saturday night.

Likud MK David Bitan at a committee in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on July 31, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Bitan, 60, was taken to the Sheba Medical Center when his oxygen levels fell, it was announced on Sunday. According to Hebrew-language media reports, he was in intensive care. A statement released on behalf of Bitan on Sunday said that he had received treatment at home in recent days but was hospitalized after his oxygen saturation levels dropped.

Bitan, who chairs the Knesset’s Immigration and Absorption Committee, was among the politicians who greeted new immigrants from Ethiopia a few days prior to his diagnosis. That ceremony was also attended by Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, and other senior government officials, though the politicians wore masks at the outdoor welcoming event at Ben Gurion Airport.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second left, and his wife Sarah, third left, greet members of the Ethiopian Jewish community as they arrive at Ben Gurion airport, outside Tel Aviv, on December 3, 2020. (Amos Ben Gershon/GPO)

Netanyahu’s office said last week he would not self-isolate as he was exposed to Bitan for under 15 minutes.

According to Channel 12 news, Bitan continued to meet with people prior to his diagnosis despite feeling unwell and suffering from a cough. Around 30 people were reportedly forced to self-quarantine as a result of the MK not following the directive to stay home when feeling unwell.

Likud MK Miki Zohar announced that he was entering quarantine after meeting with Bitan on Thursday.

Bitan joins a handful of lawmakers and ministers who have contracted the virus, including then-health minister Yaakov Litzman, Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, Joint List leader Ayman Odeh, Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel, Jerusalem Affairs Minister Rafi Peretz, and Shas MK Yinon Azoulay.

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