Netanyahu and Staff to Self-Quarantine as Precaution

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference about the coronavirus in the Prime Minister’s Office in Yerushalayim. (Flash90)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was self-isolating on Monday after an aide tested positive for coronavirus, though an initial investigation determined the 70-year-old was unlikely to have been infected, officials said.

Netanyahu was scheduled to undergo a coronavirus test by Tuesday, the officials said. A previous test, on March 15, found the premier to be negative.

The Health Ministry regulations generally require 14-day self-isolation for anyone deemed to have been in proximity with a carrier, with the duration reduced for the number of days that have passed since the suspected exposure.

Israeli media said the infected aide, Rivka Paluch, had been present at a parliament session last week attended by Netanyahu as well as opposition lawmakers with whom he is trying to build an emergency coalition government to help address the coronavirus crisis.

“The preliminary assessment is that there is no need for the Prime Minister to self-isolate as he was not in close contact with the patient, nor did he meet with her,” an Israeli official said.

In a subsequent statement, the official said Netanyahu had “decided that he and his personal staff will be in isolation until the epidemiological investigation is completed.”

Israel has reported 4,347 cases and 15 fatalities. With the Health Ministry warning that the dead could eventually number in the thousands, Netanyahu was due on Monday to convene officials on Monday to discuss a proposed lockdown of some of the country.

The Israeli official said Netanyahu has been following medical advice and holding most meetings by video-conference.