According to a spokesperson of the former prime minister of Israel and the leader of the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu has tested positive for the coronavirus. The announcement was made on Wednesday and the spokesperson stated that the 72-year old Netanyahu was feeling well and also following the guidelines of the Health Ministry. After the announcement, the current Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett wished the former a speedy recovery from the disease. Shirly Pinto, the Yamina MK, from the coalition also announced on Wednesday that she had tested positive for COVID-19 too.
There are 120 members in the Knesset and the coalition comprises of 61 members, which means that the day-to-day business of the government becomes rather complicated because a single lawmaker can actually hold up the crucial vote needed for any kind of legislation. In recent weeks, the coalition has had to deal with setbacks involving pulling multiple votes primarily because of this reason. Last year in December, Pinto had been called reluctantly by her party to the Knesset, just six days after she had given birth. This was because the opposition had refused to offset her absence. Naftali Bennet had referred to this behavior as a new low by the leader of the opposition i.e. Netanyahu.
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has been ongoing for two years, the Knesset has not yet managed to give approval for a process that would allow its members to give their votes from a distance. Netanyahu had attended a Likud faction meeting on Monday at the Knesset, which means that all those who had come into close contact with him would have to get tested for the virus and also remain in isolation until they are able to obtain a negative test result. However, this is only applicable if they have not recovered from the virus or are not inoculated against it.
The positive test of the opposition leader is also going to delay the ongoing corruption trial against him, which has been facing a number of delays in the last couple of weeks. Two weeks ago, court proceedings had been delayed because judge Moshe Bar-Am, one of the three judges who are overseeing the trial, had also tested positive for the coronavirus. In the previous week, the country had begun to rollback almost all of its COVID-19 health restrictions because the fifth wave of infections continued to recede. There were only a handful of restrictions left in place in order to prevent a reversal of the trend.
These changes come as the number of daily cases of COVID-19 in Israel, which had been fueled by the Omicron variant. Have continued to ebb. They have now reached a ninth of the total they had been almost a month ago. As of Wednesday morning, the number of coronavirus patients in serious condition had been about 410. This was nearly one-third of what the number had been almost a month ago. The death toll in Israel since the beginning of the pandemic two years ago has now reached 10,322.