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Shin Bet, Hadassah hospital heads self-isolate after contact with virus carriers

Security agency employee in Nadav Argaman’s office diagnosed with COVID-19; Zeev Rotstein among 250 passengers on flight from Dubai forced into quarantine

Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman outside his home on February 11, 2016. (Flash90)
Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman outside his home on February 11, 2016. (Flash90)

The heads of both the Shin Bet security agency and Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital entered quarantine Tuesday after being exposed to people later confirmed as carriers of the coronavirus.

Zeev Rotstein, the director of Hadassah, was forced to quarantine after four passengers on a return flight from Dubai, which he flew to as part of an official visit, were diagnosed with COVID-19. Some 250 passengers were required to self isolate as a result of the diagnoses, the Ynet news site reported.

Separately, Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman was ordered into self-isolation after an employee in his office was diagnosed with the virus, Army Radio reported.

In October, amid a slew of reports of public officials breaking lockdown restrictions, Argaman apologized for hosting members of his family who did not live at his home during the Sukkot holiday.

Prof. Zeev Rotstein, CEO of Hadassah Hospital speaks during a press conference at the Hadassah Ein Karem hospital in Jerusalem on November 1, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The head of the service [Nadav] Argaman apologizes for the incident and takes full responsibility,” said a statement released by the agency at the time, confirming that he had violated the regulations.

Before the start of the Sukkot holiday, the government approved fines of NIS 500 ($145) for anyone caught hosting someone not from their household in a sukkah, or anyone caught visiting a sukkah that is not their own.

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu entered quarantine after meeting a person who was later confirmed to be a carrier of coronavirus, his office said.

Netanyahu underwent virus tests on Sunday and Monday and came out negative, the statement from the PMO added. He will nonetheless self-isolate until Friday, in accordance with government guidelines.

It is the third time that Netanyahu has been forced into quarantine since the start of the pandemic following exposure to sick staff members.

In recent days, the prime minister has said he would like to become the first Israeli to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which could happen as early as Saturday night.

Netanyahu’s self-isolation came days after he attended an event with Likud MK David Bitan, who was later diagnosed with the coronavirus and was hospitalized on Saturday night.

Likud MK David Bitan at a committee in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on July 31, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Bitan, 60, was taken to the Sheba Medical Center when his oxygen levels fell, it was announced on Sunday. He was in intensive care, according to Hebrew media reports.

Bitan, who chairs the Knesset’s Immigration and Absorption Committee, was among the politicians who greeted new immigrants from Ethiopia a few days prior to his diagnosis. That ceremony was also attended by Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, and other senior government officials, though the politicians wore masks at the outdoor welcoming event at Ben Gurion Airport.

Bitan joins a handful of lawmakers and ministers who have contracted the virus, including then-health minister Yaakov Litzman, Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, Joint List leader Ayman Odeh, Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel, Jerusalem Affairs Minister Rafi Peretz and Shas MK Yinon Azoulay.

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