Netanyahu faces potential 3rd stint in quarantine as worker diagnosed with virus
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Netanyahu faces potential 3rd stint in quarantine as worker diagnosed with virus

Health officials looking at who the man was in contact with; he is said to have been in the same room as the premier on Saturday

Benjamin Netanyahu, wearing a protective face mask, chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on May 31, 2020. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)
Benjamin Netanyahu, wearing a protective face mask, chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on May 31, 2020. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)

A worker at the Prime Minister’s Office has been confirmed as a coronavirus carrier, the office said in a statement Monday.

The development could force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into self-quarantine for what would be the third time in as many months.

“A worker at the office tested positive for coronavirus,” the statement said. “At the moment, an epidemiological investigation is being carried out, at the end of which appropriate guidelines will be given to those who came in contact with him.”

Channel 13 news reported that the unnamed worker, on the technical staff, was in a room with Netanyahu on Saturday, and officials are checking if the prime minister was in close contact with him.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a televised statement at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on May 30, 2020. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Netanyahu held a press conference Saturday, at which he warned of a new lockdown following an uptick in the number of virus cases. Several other top officials were also there, including Finance Minister Israel Katz and Education Minister Yoav Gallant.

The infected worker was apparently involved in setting up the press conference. He caught the disease from a family member who is linked to a student at the Gymnasia Rehavia high school in Jerusalem, where over 130 students and staff members have been diagnosed, the Ynet website reported. The school has been temporarily closed and all staff and students forced into quarantine.

Netanyahu has already had to enter quarantine twice in the past, after an aide came down with the virus, as well as when then-health minister Yaakov Litzman became sick.

In March, Netanyahu entered self-quarantine after meeting with one of his advisers who was then diagnosed with the virus. Netanyahu and his close family were tested at the time and found to not have the virus. A day after leaving quarantine the prime minister was forced back into isolation, when Litzman and his wife were diagnosed with the disease, at the beginning of April.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz, left, and Education Minister Yoav Gallant, right, in Jerusalem, May 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Litzman’s diagnosis also forced other government officials he had been in contact with into quarantine, among them Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen, whose spy agency had been instrumental in obtaining medical equipment for Israel, and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, who had been coordinating the government’s response to the pandemic. In addition, then-Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, as well as the ministry’s head of public health, Sigal Sadetzki, were also told to self-quarantine.

Litzman, 71, made a full recovery, but was sharply criticized, after it was reported that prior to his diagnosis he had violated his own ministry’s lockdown orders barring group prayers in closed spaces and synagogues.

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