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Netanyahu tests positive for COVID

Current Israeli Opposition head and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

By Erin Viner

The 72-year-old Likud party leader “feels well” and is following the Ministry of Health COVID-19 guidelines, according to a statement from his spokesperson.

The illness forced his hasty departure yesterday from the Knesset on the last day of sessions ahead of the two-month spring recess.

Member of Knesset (MK) Shirly Pinto, whose Yamina party belongs to the government coalition, also tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.

As the ruling coalition holds a razor-thin majority of just 61 of the 120 MKs, the absence of any lawmaker can hold deep implications on voting in the plenum. The parliamentary vacuum left by Netanyahu was therefore balanced by Pinto’s departure.

Netanyahu was serving as Premier when the pandemic first erupted and implemented government policy to navigate the country through the crisis, including three nationwide lockdowns. Under his leadership, Israel also launched a world-leading vaccination campaign.

This is the first time he contracted the virus, even though several members of his party, staff and others in his inner circle had previously been infected.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett immediately wished his predecessor a “complete healing and speedy recovery” in a message posted on Twitter, adding “Feel good!”

While Bennett has never tested positive for COVID, other members of his government including Alternate Premier and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz have successfully recovered from the coronavirus.

Israel is just emerging from a severe wave of the  highly transmissible Omicron variant. The current daily average of confirmed cases has dropped to around 6,500 from a peak in January of nearly 100,000.

Currently there 43,839 patients among Israel’s overall population of just over 9.3 million, 398 of whom are in critical condition. 10,322 Israelis have succumbed to the disease.