The deputy director-general of the Health Ministry said Sunday he will step down at the end of the year, after serving as one of the top officials leading Israel’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Itamar Grotto, who has been at the ministry for 13 years, announced his resignation in a letter to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and the director-general of the ministry, Chezy Levy.
“At the end of a particularly difficult and demanding year in which I served on the front in the fight against the coronavirus and worked tirelessly for public health, I asked today… to finish my position at the end of 2020 in order to rest a bit and embark on a new path,” he wrote.
Grotto, an epidemiologist, hailed the Israeli health system and said he believed it was time for “new blood.”
“There is still a long way to go and it is not simple, but I am sure that together… we will find the answers and solutions and learn how to overcome this virus as well, exactly as we overcame its predecessors,” he said.
Both Edelstein and Levy thanked Grotto, with the former commending him for his contribution to public health, particularly during the pandemic.
“People in the ministry may be worn out,” Levy said in response to Grotto’s decision, according to the Ynet news site.
Levy also denied any friction between Grotto and the Health Ministry.
With his resignation, Grotto will be the third senior official to leave the Health Ministry since June, following former director-general Moshe Bar Siman-Tov and Siegal Sadetzki, who was director of public health. All three played prominent roles in battling the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
In June, Grotto came under fire for approving an Israeli-Cypriot billionaire’s request to be exempted from self-quarantine upon arriving in Israel. He faced calls to resign but later apologised and remained in the post.
He also made headlines for several heated exchanges with lawmakers during Knesset committee hearings, including one last month that saw him angrily hang up a Zoom call.
Grotto was appointed deputy director-general in 2017 and before that served as the ministry’s director of public health.