Netanyahu stops shaking hands over coronavirus fears

The prime minister was caught on tape at the Cave of the Patriarchs politely declining handshakes. His wife says it’s a government directive.

By World Israel News Staff 

Amid an election campaign when handshakes are at the center of the effort to win as many votes as possible in the March 2 Knesset election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is nevertheless trying to avoid such contact with the many people he meets each day, as fears grow over the spread of the coronavirus.

The prime minister was seen on a video which aired on Monday on Kan Israeli public television showing a visit earlier in the day to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, one of Judaism’s holiest shrines, where the Jewish religion’s patriarchs and most of the matriarchs are buried.

As Netanyhau mingled, a voice is heard, calling out: “no handshakes.”

The prime minister’s wife, Sara, adds: “It’s a government directive.”

The premier smiled as he greeted those around him.

Fears of a potential massive outbreak of the coronavirus in Israel surged over the weekend when the Health Ministry announced that several people among a group of 77 South Koreans who had been on an eight-day tour of Israel tested positive for the potentially life-threatening disease after returning home earlier this month.

Among the places where the South Korean tourists had visited was the Cave of the Patriarchs on February 13, according to the ministry.

“Netanyahu is acting responsibly and has recently cut down on handshakes due to the various reports and due to the fact that he meets with thousands of people a day,” said a source who was present during the visit by the prime minister to the Hebron shrine, as cited by Kan.