Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech marking the International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day and the 75th anniversary of the breakthrough the Nazi Siege of Leningrad in the World War II, at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre in Moscow, Russia, January 29, 2018. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tested negative for Covid-19 but remains in quarantine, a spokesman said late Monday.

“PM Netanyahu’s, his family’s and staff’s #coronavirus tests all came back negative. However, he will remain quarantined until further instructions are issued by the ministry of health,” spokesman Ofir Gendelman tweeted.

The quarantine came after an aide tested positive for Covid-19.

“He did not come into close contact with the individual and did not personally meet with that person,” a statement from his office noted Monday.

Israel as of Tuesday had recorded 4,695 cases of the novel coronavirus, the 18th highest number globally, according to statistics compiled by Johns Hopkins. Sixteen Israelis have died, while 161 people have recovered.

Netanyahu’s quarantine came after Rivka Paluch, his adviser on ultra-Orthodox affairs, tested positive for the deadly virus, hours after her husband was hospitalized, the Times of Israel reported.

The prime minister had met with Paluch on Thursday, during negotiations over the formation of a new unity government with rival Benny Gantz.

Israel on March 9 closed its airport to most foreign arrivals, with exceptions for those who could meet strict quarantine requirements. The country and its nearly 9 million people are currently under strict lockdown, with only essential movements permitted.

The Israeli-occupied West Bank is under a similar lockdown, though confirmed cases remain lower at 106.

The Gaza Strip has seen nine cases so far, but even those are cause for local panic, as the territory has one of the highest population densities in the world and a healthcare system hollowed out after years of conflict and blockades.

The UN envoy for the Middle East Peace Process on Thursday acknowledged that Israel has been allowing healthcare workers involved in the virus response to move in and out of the West Bank and Gaza, and for critical medical supplies to enter the Strip.

With reporting from AFP

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Alison Tahmizian Meuse

Alison T Meuse is the Asia Times Middle East editor and correspondent.