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Israel: Police give thousands of fines over holiday for closure breaches, as “cases” mount

Police on Sunday afternoon said they had handed out 2,802 fines over the past day for various “infractions” of lockdown rules and other coronavirus regulations, as Israel’s death toll rose by three and its “case” count by over 3,000.

Police said the majority of fines, 2,044, were given to people who ventured out over a kilometer from their homes without valid cause. Another 629 were given for failure to wear masks, 37 were handed out for breaking quarantine, 30 were given to businesses or other locations that opened against the rules, and other small numbers for various offenses.

Meanwhile the Health Ministry reported three new coronavirus deaths since Saturday afternoon, with the national toll now at 1,229. It said Saturday saw 3,406 “cases” diagnosed — a drop from previous days, but one that was attributable to less testing over the Rosh Hashanah holiday. Positive rates remained high, with 8.9 percent of tests returning positive out of 38,110 conducted.

Israel had a total of 185,490 “cases” Sunday of which 50,749 are “active”. Of those sick, 607 were in serious condition (153 of them on ventilators) and 257 were in moderate condition. The rest had mild or no symptoms.

Police have said the public has so far largely adhered to restrictions that came into effect Friday afternoon, in the government’s latest effort to curb the surging pandemic. The closure will remain in effect for at least three weeks. Israel, which has one of the highest infection rates in the world, became the first advanced country to order a second lockdown to fight the pandemic.

The new lockdown is more permissive than the weeks-long closure imposed earlier this year, with numerous exceptions to the rules, including allowances for prayers during the holiday period and solitary sports activities.

A major test for the new restrictions was expected Sunday night, when the latest demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were expected to take place outside his official residence in Jerusalem. Recent months have seen demonstrations against Netanyahu several times a week, though the largest have been on Saturdays. This week the main demonstration was put off to Sunday to coincide with the end of the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

Police on Friday said demonstrators would need to divide into “clusters” of 20 to adhere to new regulations, with social distance within and between the clusters. They said they would expand the area in which demonstrators will be allowed to congregate near the premier’s residence in order to allow this.

The Black Flags group, one of the main groups behind the protests, announced last week that it would cease its demonstrations for the duration of the lockdown. However other protest groups have said they will press on.

Netanyahu and his supporters have claimed the protests are a major vector of infections, though health officials have said no “cases” have been traced back to the rallies so far.

While the government was praised for its initial handling of the pandemic, implementing a strict lockdown in March, many Israelis have expressed frustration at the prime minister and the cabinet’s perceived mismanagement of the health crisis in recent months.

Source: TOI