Netanyahu ending self-quarantine, 14 days after contact with ill adviser
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Netanyahu ending self-quarantine, 14 days after contact with ill adviser

While prime minister, family and several close aides tested negative for virus, they’ve been in isolation for past two days after learning that staff member contracted COVID-19

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

In this Saturday, March 14, 2020 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a speech from his Jerusalem office amid the coronavirus crisis. (Gali Tibbon/Pool via AP, File)
In this Saturday, March 14, 2020 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a speech from his Jerusalem office amid the coronavirus crisis. (Gali Tibbon/Pool via AP, File)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will end his self-quarantine Wednesday at 9 p.m., a spokesperson said in a statement.

The premier has been in isolation for the past two days at his official residence in Jerusalem after his adviser tested positive for the coronavirus.

Wednesday night will mark 14 days since Netanyahu last met the adviser in question. The prime minister, his family and several close advisers were tested on Monday and were found to not be carriers.

His office initially said Monday that he would enter quarantine as a precaution even though he had not been in close contact with ultra-Orthodox affairs adviser Rivka Paluch in the last two weeks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a televised statement at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on March 30, 2020. (Screen capture/ YouTube)

In a Monday address to the nation from self-quarantine shortly before receiving his tests results, Netanyahu said he was voluntarily isolating as a “personal example” to Israelis. “The cameraman is six meters away, and I did my own make-up and hair, which is why it looks like this,” he said.

In an earlier statement announcing the prime minister’s decision to quarantine, his office said, “in accordance with the [epidemiological] findings, the Health Ministry and the personal physician of the prime minister will set a day to end the isolation.”

Despite the statement by the premier’s office, Hebrew-language media reports said Netanyahu had met with Paluch last week.

Channel 12 news reported that Netanyahu was expected to self-quarantine for a week after meeting with Paluch on Thursday. Paluch tested positive on Sunday, hours after her husband was hospitalized with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Under Health Ministry orders, tens of thousands of Israelis are in self-quarantine due to possible exposure to the virus and the entire country is in an almost total lockdown that has seen most of the population confined to their homes and only allowed out for essential needs.

The Knesset Guard has examined security camera footage from the parliament building to determine whom Paluch was in contact with at the Israeli parliament on March 16, 23 and 26. Letters were sent to lawmakers and staff telling them they must immediately entire isolation if they were in contact with the aide, Ynet reported.

Rivka Paluch, left, walks alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset on March 3, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

No further details were given on the identities of those who may be required to enter quarantine. Paluch reportedly met with several lawmakers on Thursday amid frenzied negotiations as the Knesset voted Gantz in as its new speaker, signaling a unity government deal was being hammered out.

Netanyahu was previously tested for the virus two weeks ago and found to not be infected.

Paluch told Hebrew media Monday that she was feeling “good” and experiencing no symptoms. Her husband was also said to be in good condition.

Separately on Wednesday, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman underwent a test to determine whether he had contracted the coronavirus, the Kan public broadcaster reported, without providing a reason for the examination. The results were set to come back later that night.

Most people who contract COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough, but also milder cases of pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems. Netanyahu, 70, would be considered a high-risk patient. Paluch is 64.

There have been 5,591 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, the Health Ministry said Wednesday. Twenty-five Israelis have died of the disease.

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