January 24, 2022

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Netanyahu and 130 Others Enter Quarantine after Knesset Staff Infected with COVID

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On Friday evening, the leader of the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu entered quarantine, along with 130 others at the Knesset, after it was confirmed that four parliamentary personnel had tested positive for COVID-19. According to the media reports, at least one of the four people is suspected of carrying the newly-discovered Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The outbreak also pushed Simon Davidson, the Yesh Atid MK, to enter into self-isolation. Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party issued a statement, where they said that the chief Knesset officer had informed the opposition leader about a personal trainer at the gym of the Israeli parliament who had coached him on Wednesday.

The personal coach in question had tested positive for COVID-19. Likud stated that Israel’s former prime minister was complying with all established guidelines and was now waiting for the results of his COVID-19 test. This is not the first time that Netanyahu has had to quarantine since the pandemic first began in Israel. It has happened a few times before as well because of exposure to sick staff members. A security guard for the Knesset had also been found positive for the Omicron variant of the coronavirus on Thursday. According to a spokesperson for the Knesset, the guard had not returned to work since Sunday. 

However, 21 other parliamentary and security personnel had been told to go into quarantine, including Meir Porush, the United Torah Judaism MK. As per the new regulations that have been imposed in Israel, someone who comes into contact with an individual who tests positive for the Omicron variant has to quarantine for three days, despite being fully vaccinated. Benny Gantz, the Defense Minister had announced on Thursday that he had also entered into quarantine because it had come to light that an aide who had flown with him this week to the United States had also tested positive for COVID-19, which later turned out to be the Omicron variant.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had also had a passenger on his flight back to the country from the United Arab Emirates, who had tested positive for COVID-19 a day earlier. But, the premier had tested negative. According to the figures provided by the Health Ministry, there were a total of 854 new cases of the coronavirus in Israel on Thursday and this makes this figure the highest in the last two months. By Friday afternoon, they had already detected an additional 475 cases. This indicates that the pandemic seems to be spreading once more in Israel, amidst concerns over the highly infectious Omicron variant that had first been discovered in South Africa. 

The latest figures have also shown that the ‘R’ number, which indicates the average number of people that a person testing positive can infect, is also on the rise in Israel. It has now reached 1.07 and indicates that the disease is spreading because it is higher than 1. Policy talks have been dominated by the Omicron variant and it has even pushed Israel into closing its borders to tourists and imposing fresh restrictions in the country. 

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