Middle East/North Africa

Israeli health minister diagnosed with coronavirus

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Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and his wife are in isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus, Israel’s health ministry confirmed Thursday.

The ministry said both Litzman and his wife feel well and are being treated, and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had recently self-isolated after an aide tested positive, has also returned to self-isolation due to recent contact with the health minister, The Associated Press reported.

The head of Mossad and several members of Litzman’s staff have also entered quarantine, as well as the head of the nation’s National Security Council, according to the AP.

Israel, which has seen over 6,200 confirmed cases and 29 deaths from the virus, has entered a state of near-lockdown in recent weeks. Litzman is part of the country’s large ultra-Orthodox community, which has been particularly affected by the pandemic and early on dismissed many of the government’s restrictions on movement.

Netanyahu on Wednesday ordered ramped-up enforcement in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnai Brak, which has the second-largest number of cases in the nation, instructing police to establish a cordon around the city limits to examine those entering and leaving, according to the AP.

Cases in the Middle East total more than 81,000, with over 3,600 deaths. Most of these cases have been in Iran, which on Thursday confirmed the death toll had reached 3,160.

“The corona issue is not an issue that we can say it will be ended [on a specific] day. It is possible corona will be with us for the coming months. It is possible it will be with us by the end of the year. We always have to follow healthy protocols provided by the health ministry,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Thursday.

Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon Bernardita Catalla, meanwhile, died of the virus Thursday, according to the AP. Lebanon has confirmed 479 cases and 14 deaths.

Tags Benjamin Netanyahu Coronavirus Iran Israel Lebanon Middle East
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