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Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu quarantined as aide confirmed with coronavirus

Netanyahu is expected to take his second coronavirus test [AFP]

Date of publication: 30 March, 2020

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The Israeli prime minister is due to take a second coronavirus test after an aide confirmed her own infection.

An aide to Israeli prime minister was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, officials said on Monday, with Benjamin Netanyahu put into quarantine due to the outbreak.

Netanyahu's office said he will enter quarantine with his aides, after the PM's Knesset affairs advisor tested positive for coronavirus on Monday, Haaretz reported, insisting the step was precautionary.

The aide attended a parliament session last week which was attended by opposition lawmakers as well as the PM last week amid attempts to create an emergency coalition government to tackle COVID-19.

However, officials confirmed the PM, who had already taken a coronavirus test on March 15, would be taking another examination as a precautionary measure.

“The preliminary assessment is that there is no need for the PM to self-isolate as he was not in close contact with the patient, nor did he meet with her,” an Israeli official said.

Israel has reported more than 4,347 infections and 15 deaths from the illness.

The COVID-19 virus, which was first detected in China's Wuhan in December, has killed more than 34,017 people worldwide, while over 724,588 infections have been confirmed.

The majority of those that infected with corona experience only mild or moderate symptoms, including fever and a dry cough.

As of yet, there are no known treatments for the virus, though more than 152,076 have already recovered from the infection.

This week, Israeli authorities tightened a partial lockdown, requiring citizens to stay within 100 metres (110 yards) of home and setting sanctions for defying rules.

Israelis have been told to stay home where possible, schools have been shut and many businesses have closed, prompting more than 500,000 lay-offs.

Police have set up roadblocks to enforce curbs on movement and break up gatherings.

On Friday, the military said it would deploy to assist police on street patrols to enforce a lockdown against the coronavirus epidemic.

About 500 troops will join police squadrons from Sunday to help "in patrolling, isolating and securing certain areas, blocking routes and additional similar assignments", the military said in a statement at the time.

Military troops will not be armed and "would be in a support or auxiliary position, supporting the Israeli police" under the new measures, Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said in a briefing this week before the announcement.

Read also: Coronavirus under occupation: Israeli forces demolish emergency health clinic for Palestinians

One battalion of soldiers will be deployed to each of Israel's eight police districts, the military said.

Meanwhile, Palestinian-administered areas of the occupied West Bank were closed off on Wednesday as part of measures to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"From today, a closure has taken place in the West Bank," said Yotam Shefer, who heads the international department of COGAT, the Israeli military body responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories.

He told journalists the decision had been taken in conjunction with the Ramallah-based Palestinian administration, who on Sunday also announced the closure of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. 

The border crossing with the Gaza Strip has been closed in recent days and will remain so, Shefer added.

The dire situation has also prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to use emergency powers allowing the country's internal security agency to track those suspected or confirmed of being infected through monitoring their mobile phones.

The invasion of privacy has raised serious concerns in the country, with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel describing it as a ''dangerous precedent''.

Nitza Horowitz, leader of the liberal opposition party Meretz, called the tracking of citizens as amounting to ''a severe violation…of basic civil liberties''. Little was said about the intelligence service's tracking of Palestinians.

Netanyahu's authority to implement the measures were also bought into question - some accusing him of trying to acquire "dictator-like powers" - with the country's battle against the virus offset by a continued political crisis.

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