A copy of Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel’s epidemiological investigation indicates that she lied to Health Ministry officials investigating how she was infected with the coronavirus, a TV report said. The TV report Wednesday also said she infected three of her ministry colleagues on her return to work after the breach.
The report, obtained and published Wednesday by Channel 12 news, appears to corroborate a slew of reports that the minister deliberately misled investigators, telling them she spent the Yom Kippur holiday praying at a Tel Aviv synagogue when she actually broke lockdown regulations and drove to the northern city of Tiberias.
Gamliel made headlines early this month after it was revealed that she violated the countrywide lockdown regulations to curb the spread of coronavirus and that after falling ill with COVID-19, tried to conceal the journey by telling Health Ministry epidemiologists that she caught the infection from her driver.
According to her epidemiological investigation, Gamliel originally told investigators that she spent the Yom Kippur holiday at a small local synagogue in Tel Aviv and that upon learning she was infected with coronavirus, personally told all those present they had to enter quarantine.
The report notably does not mention the city of Tiberias, Channel 12 said, even though Gamliel insists she did not lie to investigators and that she mentioned the northern city by name.
However, the report also found that upon returning from Tiberias she met with several ministry colleagues, infecting three of them, including ministry director-general David Yahalomi and two of her advisers.
Because she told all present to self-isolate, the investigator came to the conclusion that there was no need in following up with those exposed, according to Channel 12.
The Health Ministry did not respond to requests for comment from Channel 12.
Gamliel has not admitted to doing anything wrong but allowed that she may not have handled the situation correctly.
“I acted in line with guidelines, though it is possible I erred in my judgment. I am sorry, I will pay the fine,” she said.
Last week Israel’s coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu intimated that lied to investigators. After being repeatedly in a Channel 12 interview if Gamliel lied, Gamzu conceded that “it was hard to get all the details [from her.]”
There were certain things that “didn’t match up” in her account to investigators, he said.
Critics have said Gamliel’s conduct as a cabinet member is incompatible with expectations that the public adhere to lockdown restrictions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was waiting for investigators to uncover the “full picture” before drawing conclusions on the conduct of Gamliel, a senior member of his Likud party.
“On the matter of Minister Gamliel, I recommend waiting on the conclusions until the Health Ministry investigation is complete. I think this is the right thing to do. We should operate on facts and investigations and not preliminary reports and I recommend waiting. We will soon receive the full picture.”
Throughout the coronavirus crisis, there has been a slew of reports of lockdown violations by senior officials and their families, including the head of the Shin Bet, the Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, two senior police officers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and President Reuven Rivlin.