Health Minister Yuli Edelstein attended a birthday party for his wife on the same day that the government announced a raft of new restrictions in an effort to contain the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Israeli public broadcaster reported on Wednesday.
According to Kan, Edelstein attended the event in honor of Irina Nevzlin at a private home alongside several dozen other people on Monday, soon after he had announced the new rules, which capped public gatherings at 20 attendees, but before they went into force.
Edelstein denied wrongdoing, saying the party was in compliance with the rules as they were at the time.
“Sorry to disappoint the fake news writers but the event I held in honor of my wife’s birthday was in the open — where events could be held at the time according to all regulations. A 20-person restriction on such open-space events did not exist, so everything was done according to regulations,” Edelstein tweeted after the news broke.
On Monday, the cabinet passed a raft of restrictions to contain the renewed coronavirus outbreak, including limiting the number of people at restaurants and synagogues, reducing the number of passengers on public transportation, hiking fines for not wearing face masks, and shutting down event halls, cultural venues, swimming pools, gyms, bars and nightclubs.
All public gatherings were capped at 20 people, with all required to wear face masks and keeping a distance of two meters.
Edelstein delivered a prime-time televised statement Monday evening, acknowledging that the new restrictions would harm many sectors, and saying they were necessary in order to flatten the curve and “save Israel’s economy” in the long run.
He also sternly warned Israelis to abide by the rules to keep the virus in check.
During his tenure, Yaakov Litzman, Edelstein’s predecessor as health minister, had also come under fire for allegedly flouting health rules.
Litzman, who tested positive for the coronavirus in April, allegedly broke his own ministry’s guidelines on social distancing by attending group prayer services in the days before he was diagnosed.
Other politicians, including President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, came under fire over Passover when they hosted their grown children — in violation of a nationwide lockdown.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday morning released new figures showing an overnight jump of 21 new serious COVID-19 cases. The number of serious cases has been steadily increasing since the start of the current outbreak, which marks the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Israel and has sickened over 32,000. The death toll from the virus is 344.