Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
Yair Lapid leads a faction meeting at the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on May 24, 2021.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced Tuesday evening that he is self-quarantining after one of his aides tested positive for the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The aide was part of Lapid’s team in Brussels and was on the flight with him back to Israel. The rest of the team tested negative for COVID-19 but are self-quarantining, as per the Health Ministry’s guidelines. Photos of Lapid not wearing a mask as he walked around the airport after returning from overseas, despite the mask-wearing requirement, have been floating around social media.

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In addition, MK Vladimir Beliak, also from the Lapid’s Yesh Atid’s party tested positive for Covid-19.

On Wednesday, the aide took a follow-up test which came out negative, and the Health Ministry determined that both Lapid and the aide do not need to remain in quarantine.

In the meantime, the virus continued to spread across the country and the number of new verified cases climbs daily.

Israel’s Channel 11 reported Tuesday evening that 51 cases of the “Delta Plus” (Indian) variant have been discovered in the country in recent days. The first case was discovered in Israel six days ago and the Ministry of Health fears that Delta Plus may be more aggressive than its predecessor.

The Delta Plus is another mutation of the Indian strain, and can also lead to severe symptoms and hospitalization.

The ministerial committee on fighting the coronavirus convened Tuesday and announced a few minor steps, but essentially decided not to decide at this point.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that his three main directives for dealing with the Coronavirus are to think about how to open the economy instead of closing it, to give the public as much time in advance as possible to prepare for future courses of action, and to be in contact with elements on the ground, especially business-owners, in order to study their needs and adapt government actions in an optimal manner.

The main change that the Corona Cabinet decide on is the shortening of the duration of the quarantine to seven days upon receiving a negative result on the last day.

“We are setting out terms that the public is able to meet. We are coming toward the public,” claimed Bennet. “We expect the public to accede fully, to quarantine, to the tests at the end of the period, to vaccinations and to wearing masks.”

It is unclear how he decided that seven days of quarantine is something “the public is able to meet.”

However, some of the senior Ministry of Health officials reportedly presented data indicating that shortening the quarantine period could cause about 20% of patients to be missed.

The Cabinet also decided on a “dramatic increase” of enforcement for not wearing masks. The Public Security Ministry will have overall responsibility for enforcement. It will be assisted by local authority inspectors regarding enforcement in the public sphere.

The Health Ministry updated Tuesday night that it recorded 731 cases in the past 24 hours, the highest number in weeks.

Of the 55,417 tests done Tuesday, a climbing 1.38% returned positive.

However, the number of patients in serious condition remained low at 45, with 13 on life support.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.