Grotto: Here's why I let Teddy Sagi into Israel without isolation

“In retrospect, I'm sure that some of my decisions were right and justified, and some, unfortunately - no,” Grotto wrote.

Health Minister Yakov Litzman  received the annual flu shot by Prof. Itamar Grotto in a school in Tel Aviv in October 18, 2018 (photo credit: HEALTH MINISTRY)
Health Minister Yakov Litzman received the annual flu shot by Prof. Itamar Grotto in a school in Tel Aviv in October 18, 2018
(photo credit: HEALTH MINISTRY)
Health Ministry deputy director-general Itamar Grotto explained on Friday that he allowed billionaire Teddy Sagi into the country without coronavirus isolation in a manner consistent with the policy for granting exemptions.
He said that he did not personally know billionaire Teddy Sagi, the Cypriot-Israeli tycoon, whose entrance into the country without isolation sparked outrage.
Sagi reportedly requested that Grotto let him out of the 14-day isolation period required by the Health Ministry to attend a family event. Grotto granted him permission, and Sagi was later caught on film at a rooftop party, raising questions as to why the special permission was granted.
In an open letter addressed to director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov and disseminated to the media on Friday, Grotto responded to a series of media attacks over the past few days.
“I don’t know Teddy Sagi and I have nothing to do with Teddy Sagi,” Grotto wrote. “Teddy Sagi never contacted me for approval… I got the call from the civil service.”
Grotto explained that approvals have been granted in the past specifically for people who want to attend family events and therefore, the decision to allow Sagi into Israel was in line with Health Ministry policies and practice.
Later, an email received by Israeli media showed that Grotto had in fact allowed Sagi out of isolation only for the family event: "quarantine until the family event and quarantine until you leave the country," the email said.
In his letter to Bar Siman Tov, Grotto also stressed that Sagi arrived on a private plane from Cyprus, without fear of exposure to other people on the way. Cyprus is a green state, meaning it has an exceptionally low infection rate.
Sagi had also reported that he had previously been infected with coronavirus and recovered.
He said that Sagi also took a serological (antibody) test in Israel and was found to be immune to corona, which verified his previous claim that he had been infected and recovered. He likewise retook a PCR test before leaving back to Cyprus, which also came out negative.
“It can be said unequivocally that he was at no risk of infecting others,” Grotto continued, stating that he approved the exception for Sagi “in a manner consistent with the organization’s policy.”
Moreover, Grotto maintained that, as per media reports, relief of this kind was provided by the Health Ministry throughout the coronavirus crisis to a variety of people for a multitude of reasons – many with the full knowledge and consent of Bar Siman Tov.
“I have received hundreds of inquiries regarding various reliefs, including in the area of exemptions from isolation. I hope and believe that in most cases I have decided correctly, and I am surely sorry for any case where this was not the case,” Grotto wrote.
Grotto requested that his letter to Bar Siman Tov, which was copied to newly appointed Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, be shared with the media “in order to reduce, even if slightly, the damage done to me.”
Following the report on N12, Edelstein summoned Grotto for a disciplinary hearing, vowing to “examine the issue with all disciplinary measures at his disposal.”
However, after investigation, it does not appear that Grotto will be fired.