Israel’s prime minister tests positive for COVID one day after meeting with US Secretary of State Blinken
Will Blinken, other US and Israeli officials have to enter quarantine?
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tested positive for COVID-19, one day after meeting with and holding a news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken who is in Israel to attend the Negev Summit.
His office said that the prime minister feels well and will work from home while quarantining, including holding an assessment on last night's terror attack.
Israel's Police Chief Kobi Shabtai also tested positive, according to a report this morning.
Bennett's diagnosis comes as rising daily COVID cases are being reported, signaling what could be the start of a sixth wave not long after the fifth one eased up in February. Yesterday, 9,800 new infections were reported but previous days were hovering closer to 14,000.
Israel recently relaxed its quarantine rules and exposure to a COVID carrier is no longer a prerequisite for quarantine. That means that Blinken and other Israeli and U.S. officials who came into contact with Bennett or Shabtai will likely not be under isolation restrictions.
Because he tested positive, Bennett is required to be in quarantine for five days or until symptoms subside which means he will miss in-person meetings over the next few days. Bennett has had at least three doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine.
Currently, a historic summit is taking place in the Negev at Sde Boker with the foreign ministers of six nations. Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is hosting Blinken and the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt.
Bennett also has to deal with a second deadly terror attack in less than a week in Israel. Last night, two gunmen – Israeli-Arab citizens – opened fire in downtown Hadera, a coastal city north of Tel Aviv. Two Israelis were killed and the terrorists were shot dead by police.
The COVID diagnosis of Israel's top leader comes days after he convened an emergency meeting with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz on extending existing restrictions – including an indoor-mask mandate, and stepping up vaccination efforts, including financial incentives for people over 60 to get a fourth shot.
The government also has a plan to close the skies in a matter of hours should a new variant spring up. This comes as the tourism industry is only just getting started again after two years of mostly-closed borders which only just opened again to all foreigners.
Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.