On Tuesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s COVID-19 test came out negative, after it came to light that a passenger on his flight from the United Arab Emirates to Israel had tested positive for the disease a day earlier. In accordance with the latest regulations imposed for the coronavirus, the premier and his office staff will be required to stay in quarantine until Thursday, if they receive a negative test result. A COVID-19 test is required on landing of all passengers who arrive at the Ben Gurion Airport. Bennett had returned to Israel on Monday from his landmark trip, as it made him the first prime minister of Israel to travel to the Gulf nation.
He had taken a scaled-down delegation with him to the UAE, which did not include journalists, due to worries about the spread of the highly contagious and newly-discovered Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Since he arrived back in Israel, Bennett has been in quarantine. However, he did go to the Knesset on Monday evening and had to attend the plenum in an isolation booth because the opposition was refusing to offset the coalition votes. Travel restrictions have been tightened by the Israeli government, along with quarantine requirements because of concerns about the Omicron strain.
Even though Israel’s skies are open, they have imposed a ban on foreign visitors. In addition, there is a daily update of the list of red countries, which are those where travel is banned. This measure could cut down the number of flights abroad and make it difficult for Israelis to plan their trips in advance. All Israelis have been urged to avoid any nonessential travel. However, a number of lawmakers and ministers from both the coalition and the opposition have traveled to the United States recently for a conference.
Moreover, the premier’s wife and children have also gone on vacation to the Maldives, which has drawn a lot of criticism. After all, the prime minister had urged Israelis to avoid traveling abroad and his own family had gone on a trip. Bennett had already been in quarantine when he was informed of the positive traveler. They were initially slated to take a PCR test on Wednesday, in accordance with the regulations, but Bennett has decided to take an additional test on Thursday for safety purposes. It is not confirmed if the traveler was carrying the Omicron variant.
In other news, a staff member of Defense Minister Benny Gantz has tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. The staff member will be required to undergo an additional test, while Gantz will have to stay in quarantine for the test sequencing. The infected member had not been sitting close to Gantz during the flight and had not tested positive when the test was taken at the Ben Gurion Airport or when they left the United States for Israel. Gantz recently returned from the US where he had a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for discussing regional issues, such as the settlements in the West Bank and Iran’s nuclear program.