Israel's Netanyahu under precautionary coronavirus quarantine

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his close aides have been placed under precautionary quarantine after a staffer within his office tested positive for COVID-19, the premier's office said Monday, March 30.

In a statement, Netanyahu's office made clear that the quarantine decision was purely precautionary as the veteran prime minister had not been in recent contact with the ill staffer.

"The preliminary assessment is that there is no need for the prime minister to be quarantined, as he did not come into close contact with the individual and did not personally meet with that person," the statement said.

"Over the past two weeks the two were never in the same room at the same time," it added.

The statement further noted that the "epidemiological investigation" was ongoing and that Netanyahu and "his close staff would be in confinement until (tests) were completed."

Israel, which has more than 4,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, has imposed severe restrictions to contain the spread of the virus, including a total ban on non-essential movements.

Netanyahu's office stressed that he has had limited interpersonal contact in recent weeks, conducting "most of his meetings via video conferencing from his residence."

The news comes as Netanyahu, 70, is widely expected to agree on an emergency unity government with his election rival Benny Gantz to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The two fought 3 bitter but inconclusive elections over the past year, with neither securing enough support to form a viable coalition government.

Gantz, a centrist, was elected speaker of Israel's parliament last week and has committed to backing an emergency unity government with Netanyahu, citing the need to combat COVID-19. – Rappler.com