Benjamin Netanyahu Will Not Need to Self-Isolate After Aide Tests Positive for Coronavirus, Office Suggests

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not have to self-isolate for 14 days after one of his aides tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus, according to officials in his office.

Rivka Paluch—Netanyahu's adviser on ultra-Orthodox affairs—tested positive hours after her husband was admitted to hospital suffering from the virus, The Times of Israel reported.

Paluch had met with Netanyahu as recently as Thursday, the newspaper said, and had also been around other lawmakers as they worked to broker a deal between Netanyahu and rival Benny Gantz to end a year of political deadlock. The Israeli Health Ministry is now undertaking an epidemiological study to track Paluch's movements and identify who she was in close contact with late last week.

Current Health Ministry guidelines dictate that anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms after being in close contact with a confirmed infectee must self-isolate for 14 days.

The prime minister's bureau told Newsweek that the Health Ministry would release detailed results of the the epidemiological study once it is complete. The bureau added, "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."

Netanyahu and close aides were later put under precautionary quarantine, according to AFP, for the duration of the epidemiological study.

The Times of Israel reported that the prime minister's office previously confirmed that Netanyahu and Paluch met but said "appropriate distance was kept." Sources close to Paluch told Israel's Channel 12 news channel that the "rules for keeping distance from the prime minister and those near him were maintained in accordance with the instructions of the Health Ministry, even before the family member was found positive."

The prime minister's bureau told Newsweek that Netanyahu and his staff have been "strictly complying" with Health Ministry instructions under the supervision of the prime minister's personal physician. Netanyahu is already conducting "most of his meetings" via video from his residence, the bureau added. The prime minister will be tested for the virus again on Monday, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Netanyahu and some of his closest advisers were tested for coronavirus some two weeks ago, with none found to be infected.

There have been 4,347 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Israel to date with 16 deaths and 134 recoveries. The Health Ministry said Sunday there are 78 patients in serious condition and 59 on ventilators.

There are seven members of the Israeli parliament—including two ministers—currently in self-isolation due to exposure to confirmed COVID-19 patients, The Times of Israel noted. This number will likely increase as a clearer picture of Paluch's movements last week emerge.

Only one world leader—British Prime Minister Boris Johnson—is so far confirmed to have been infected with the novel coronavirus. The prime minister began his period of self-isolation last week, as did the U.K. Health Minister Matt Hancock. Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty is also in self-isolation after showing COVID-19 symptoms.

This article has been updated to reflect that Netanyahu and close aides have now been placed under precautionary quarantine.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, coronavirus, COVID-19, self-isolation
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pictured at his Jerusalem office on March 14, 2020 in Israel. GALI TIBBON/AFP via Getty Images/Getty