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Israel's Parliament Meetings Cancelled After Lawmaker Gets Coronavirus

Representative Image. (Image: AP)

Representative Image. (Image: AP)

A lawmaker from the Joint List, Samy Abu Shehadeh announced on Thursday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus forcing the Knesset to suspend most of its activities.

Israel's parliament has cancelled meetings scheduled for Thursday and told some 700 employees to stay at home after a lawmaker tested positive for the coronavirus, media reports here said.

The country has seen an uptick in the number of people infected by the virus following the government's decision to lift restrictions on restaurants, bars, tourist attractions and other businesses in efforts to stabilise the struggling economy.

A lawmaker from the Joint List, Samy Abu Shehadeh, the third largest party in the parliament predominantly supported by the Arab population, announced on Thursday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus forcing the Knesset to suspend most of its activities.

Some 700 workers at the Knesset were told to not come to work, and committee meetings and other activities planned for Thursday were cancelled, Hebrew media reports said.

Abu Shehadeh, 44, entered quarantine two days ago following his driver's diagnosis with the pathogen. He was earlier seen in crowds without wearing a mask.

"I appeal to anyone who was in my immediate area to go in isolation and do a test. I ask everyone to follow the instructions of the Ministry of Health," the lawmaker tweeted.

"We must all internalise that the campaign is not over yet. The virus still exists between us and the supposed return to routine helps the virus spread in a big and fast way," Abu Shehadeh added.

While the authorities checked who all the lawmaker may have come in contact with, he told the Kan public broadcaster that he had been in contact with thousands of people.

"I went to comfort mourners and also to family events and demonstrations... I was on committees, in the plenary and even the cafeteria," he told Kan.

News portal Walla reported that he paid a visit to the mourning tent set up by the family of Iyad Halak, a 32-year-old East Jerusalem man with special needs who was shot to death by Israel police on Saturday.

Pictures, published in the local media, showed him visiting the family and also at a protest without a mask.

Several lawmakers have entered quarantine since the outbreak of the pandemic but only Yaakov Litzman, who was the Health Minister before the formation of the new government on May 17, was diagnosed positive with the COVID-19.

Litzman has recovered and is now serving as the Housing Minister in the new government.

His diagnosis had forced several top officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen and National Security Adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat to enter quarantine. Their tests came negative.

Abu Shehadeh's announcement comes amid a sharp increase in new virus cases in recent days, mostly around schools across the country.

According to the Health Ministry numbers released on Thursday morning, some 17,429 people have been diagnosed with the virus, up 52 from Wednesday evening. There are currently 25 people on ventilators and 291 people have died.

Some 14,993 people have also recovered after contracting the virus keeping the number of active cases low, and also the pandemic seemingly under control.