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Netanyahu exits quarantine following Omicron exposure, after 2 negative tests

Another Knesset worker tests positive for COVID; nationwide cases of new COVID strain spike

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu during a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, on December 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu during a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, on December 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has exited quarantine after a week, testing negative twice following his exposure to an Omicron carrier, the Knesset spokesperson said Wednesday morning.

Likud MK Gadi Yevarkan has also completed his period of quarantine.

Netanyahu and some 130 others at the Knesset entered quarantine on Friday evening after four parliamentary personnel were confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus, including a personal trainer of the former prime minister.

Three of those four cases are suspected to be of the Omicron variant of the virus. Under new regulations, people who have come in direct contact with an Omicron carrier must isolate for seven days after their exposure to the individual, even if they are fully vaccinated with a booster.

Separately, the Knesset spokesperson said Wednesday that a Knesset worker who was last in the parliament on December 16 has tested positive. Knesset officer Yuval Chen sent a message to anyone at the Knesset “who was in contact with him or near him to stay home and not come to work until we receive further instructions from the Health Ministry.”

On Tuesday, the ministry confirmed 170 new cases of the ultra-contagious new Omicron variant, bringing the total number of cases in Israel to 341. Cases overall have risen sharply over the past few days, though serious cases and hospitalizations due to COVID have remained stable.

At a meeting of the COVID cabinet Tuesday evening, ministers approved a raft of new restrictions aimed at curbing rising cases. The new rules include limiting occupancy at shopping malls, restricting non-essential stores to only those with a “Green Pass,” and switching to remote learning in schools in “red” and “orange” localities where less than 70 percent of the classroom is vaccinated.

The rate of positive cases has ticked up steadily over the past 10 days, from 0.56% on December 12 to 1.33% on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the number of serious COVID cases has dropped slightly over the same period.

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