A general view of a usually busy street is seen as Israel tightened a national stay-at-home policy following the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Jerusalem Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai- Top Israeli officials have been asked to self -isolate after health minister Yaakov Litzman and his wife tested positive for the novel Coronavirus, media reported on Thuesday.

The 71-year-old health minister and his wife are now in isolation receiving treatment. Those who were in contact with the infected minister over the past two weeks were asked to go on to self- isolation.

The ministry added that its director-general, Moshe Bar Siman Tov, along with other senior officials, will also enter quarantine following contacts with Litzman.

Mossad chief Yossi Cohen will self-isolate at the intelligence agency’s headquarters, and other officials will follow suit. This comes as the coronavirus death toll in the country rose to 31 while the total number of infections climbed to more than 6200, as reported on Thursday morning.

Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu had gone into two-week self-isolation after one of his aides tested positive for the virus, however, he has so far tested negative.

Israeli officials describe the ultra-Orthodox as especially prone to contagion because their districts tend to be poor and congested.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu announced new restrictions to limit movement around Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish town that has suffered a disproportionately large outbreak.

Ultra-Orthodox restrictions

The rising caseload has spurred Israel to increasingly tighten restrictions, with the latest measures aimed directly at ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities that have resisted social distancing rules.

According to health ministry data, ultra-Orthodox neighbourhoods and cities have become COVID-19 hotspots after leading rabbis had initially ignored and even refuted state orders to close educational institutions and limit synagogue attendance.

Netanyahu on Wednesday said there had been "a very positive change among the ultra-Orthodox public".

He said the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim in Hebrew, had now "well internalised the danger of the spread of the coronavirus".

They are "listening to the instructions and behaving responsibly, with full backing from the rabbis," he added.

In a televised address, Netanyahu said movement to and from the central Israeli ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak would be reduced "to the necessary minimum".

The quarantined and sick from Bnei Brak would be taken away to hotels elsewhere in the country, the right-wing premier added.

Netanyahu also told Israelis to wear face masks in public, in a reversal of policy.

"If you do not have a mask, use a scarf or any other face covering that will reduce the spread of the virus to others," he said.