The Health Ministry No.2 granted an Israeli-Cypriot billionaire an exemption from having to enter quarantine upon his arrival to Israel in order to attend a party, documents reveal.
According to officials, Teddy Sagi received his waiver from Prof. Itamar Grotto after first contacting the ministry's Director General Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov, who turned down his request.
Sagi apparently said in his request that he was arriving from Cyprus, which is classified as a "green country," a region with low coronavirus spread, and that he had contracted the pathogen in London two months ago and has since recovered.
The billionaire also sent Grotto the results of his blood test and had undergone an additional coronavirus test before boarding a private plane in Cyprus last week.
Upon his arrival, the businessman reportedly headed for a lavish, celebrity-filled rooftop party in Tel Aviv that allegedly had a number of guests much higher than allowed by the Health Ministry, hence violating the guidelines.
The event, a bar mitzvah party organized for the real estate developer Itzik Toledano’s son, was held at a private residence in Tel Aviv and included a firework show and loud music, prompting locals to file multiple noise complaints to the police.
The business mogul's representatives said: "Teddy Sagi entered Israel legally and in accordance with the public health orders."
Health Ministry officials estimate that Sagi was not the only person to receive such a privilege and that Prof. Grotto in the past allowed several others to enter Israel without requiring them to enter quarantine.
Sources within the ministry said that similar requests by celebrities and business people to receive waivers was a regular occurrence at Prof. Grotto's office.
"It's a daily thing," said an official. "We constantly receive requests, but this case is a severe one."
According to reports, Bar-Siman-Tov had sent a “harsh” letter to Prof. Grotto, demanding clarifications on the matter and hinted that he should be fired if the allegations are true.
“An exemption from quarantine, contrary to regulation, does serious damage to the public’s faith in us - the professional health authorities and the government,” he wrote in a copy of the letter obtained by Ynet.
“I hope there is a professionally satisfactory explanation for this, and the reports will prove to be false. However, if they are true then you need to immediately draw the appropriate conclusions,” he wrote, alluding to Grotto's possible dismissal from the position.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein ordered Bar-Siman-Tov to hold a meeting with Prof. Grotto to clarify the matter.
"Now, at a time when there are great efforts being made to explain the importance of adhering to the guidelines to the public, now when we call for tightening of the enforcement, there simply cannot be exemptions that would put the public at risk," Edelstein said.