Jerusalem, ZZZ, Mar 30 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his close aides have been placed under precautionary quarantine after a staffer within his office tested positive for COVID-19, the premier’s office said Monday.
In a statement, Netanyahu’s office said the quarantine decision was precautionary as the veteran prime minister had not been in recent proximity with the ill staffer.
“The preliminary assessment is that there is no need for the prime minister to be quarantined, as he did not come into close contact with the individual and did not personally meet with that person,” the statement said.
“Over the past two weeks the two were never in the same room at the same time,” it added.
The statement further noted that the “epidemiological investigation” was ongoing and that Netanyahu and “his close staff would be in confinement until (tests) were completed.”
A statement from the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, identified the staffer as Rivka Paluch, Netanyahu’s parliamentary aide, noting three dates she had been in the building.
Members of the Knesset and employees have already been instructed to follow the health ministry’s orders and self-quarantine if they were in her vicinity, the statement said.
The Knesset said it was offering footage from its surveillance cameras to the health ministry for them to see where and when Paluch had been in the building, for the health professionals to determine which measures need be taken.
Israel, which has more than 4,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, has imposed severe restrictions to contain the spread of the virus, including a total ban on non-essential movements.
Netanyahu’s office stressed that he has had limited inter-personal contact in recent weeks, conducting “most of his meetings via video conferencing from his residence.”
The news comes as Netanyahu, 70, is widely expected to agree on an emergency unity government with his election rival Benny Gantz to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
The two fought three bitter but inconclusive elections over the past year, with neither securing enough support to form a viable coalition government.
Gantz, a centrist, was elected speaker of Israel’s parliament last week and has committed to backing an emergency unity government with Netanyahu, citing the need to combat COVID-19.