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Netanyahu tests negative for virus in Knesset outbreak, will isolate until 2nd test

Some 130 people at Knesset enter quarantine after 4 personnel catch virus, with 3 of those cases suspected to be Omicron; infected staff include opposition chief’s gym trainer

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

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has tested negative for the coronavirus but will remain in isolation until after the results of a second test, the Likud party said Saturday.

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.

According to the Walla news site, 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 three days, even if they are fully vaccinated.

Yesh Atid MK Simon Davidson also entered self-isolation on Friday due to the outbreak.

Netanyahu has been forced into quarantine several times since the start of the pandemic after exposure to infected staff members and officials.

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

On Thursday, a Knesset security guard tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The guard has not been at work since Sunday, according to the Knesset spokesperson, but 21 other security and parliamentary personnel, as well as United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush, have been instructed to enter quarantine.

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced that he had entered self-imposed quarantine after discovering that an aide who flew with him to the US this week had tested positive for coronavirus, later reported to be the Omicron variant.

A day earlier, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tested negative for COVID-19 after a passenger on his flight back to Israel from the United Arab Emirates earlier this week tested positive for the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz vote from the Knesset gallery due to quarantine requirements on December 15, 2021.(Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)

The latest Health Ministry figures released Friday showed 854 new coronavirus cases diagnosed the previous day, the highest daily figure in some two months.

Another 475 cases were detected by Friday afternoon, as the pandemic appeared to be on an upward trajectory in Israel once more amid concerns over the spread of the highly-contagious Omicron variant.

The latest numbers also showed Israel’s basic virus reproduction rate had risen to 1.07. Also known as the “R-number,” the figure represents the number of people each confirmed patient infects, on average. Any number over 1 signifies that case numbers are rising.

The Omicron coronavirus strain has dominated policy talks, leading Israel to once again shutter its borders to most foreigners and impose fresh restrictions on Israelis returning from countries with high infection rates.

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