Jerusalem: Israel’s Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has been put into isolation after being tested positive for COVID-19, pushing all the top officials, including Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat, at the forefront of fight against the deadly virus into self-quarantine.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had earlier gone into self isolation after a close aide was found to have contracted the Virus, but he has so far tested negative.
Litzman and his wife, who also has contracted the virus, are in isolation, feeling well and are being treated, the health ministry said in a statement, adding that it will request all those who came in contact with the minister in the past two weeks to also do the same.
“The team of advisers, assistants and secretarial staff in the minister’s office will continue to work from home and will maintain constant telephone communication as needed with the minister, who is continuing to fully manage this event from his home,” the ministry said.
He has “light coronavirus symptoms after contracting the disease from an as yet unidentified source”, a Health Ministry official told Channel 12 news.
“His condition at this time is mild. He is not asymptomatic, there are some symptoms, but no more than that,” Dr Itamar Grotto, deputy director-general of the ministry, told the Channel.
Litzman will be “able to keep working while sick”, Grotto said. The ministry is investigating from whom Litzman contracted the disease and is informing people who have been in contact with the minister to go into quarantine, including the director-general of the health ministry, Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, the head of Mossad and a number of other senior officials, he stressed.
Ha’aretz Online in its regular update said that both, Mossad Chief Cohen and NSA Shabbat, will be quarantined.
Asked if Litzman could have contracted the disease from another senior government official, Grotto did not rule it out but also felt that it may have come from someone within the minister’s ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem, which has been particularly hit by COVID-19.
“There’s a high rate of the illness in the Haredi (Ultra-orthodox) community, so it’s reasonable to think that it happened there,” the official told the Channel.
The community leaders had earlier ignored restrictions over assembly as mandated by the government but have started to comply in view of the large number of cases in the community.
Death toll due to Coronavirus in Israel reached 31 on Thursday morning. 6,211 Israelis have so far tested positive for the Virus. 107 of those are said to be in serious condition, including 83 on life support. One Israeli tourist died in Italy.
So far 241 have also recovered after having tested positive.