JERUSALEM: Israel's health minister, who has had frequent contact with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials, has the new coronavirus, the Health Ministry announced on Thursday. Yaakov Litzman and his wife, who also has contracted the virus, are in isolation, feel well and are being treated, the statement said.
The announcement said that requests to enter isolation will be sent to those who came in contact with the minister in the past two weeks. The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the head of Israel's Mossad spy agency and the National Security Council were asked to go into isolation because of their contacts with Litzman.
Netanyahu had gone into isolation previously after a top aide tested positive for the virus, but Netanyahu has so far tested negative. Israel has gone into near-lockdown to try to contain the virus outbreak. Israel's large, insular Ultra-Orthodox community, of which Litzman is a member, has been particularly hard hit by infections.
In the early phases of the outbreak, some rabbis had pushed back or ignored government-mandated movement restrictions, but resistance appears to have diminished. Israel has reported just over 6,000 confirmed cases of infection with the new coronavirus, and 26 people have died of COVID-19.