No Masks, No Service: Israel Imposes New COVID Regulations

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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Police officers in Ben-Gurion airport, on Tuesday.
Police officers in Ben-Gurion airport, on Tuesday.Credit: Hadas Parush
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

New coronavirus regulations went into effect on Wednesday morning, as the government ramped up its efforts to curb the spread of the delta variant across Israel. 

According to the new restrictions, public places and businesses are prohibited from allowing entry to or serving those not wearing masks. They must also display signs mandating masks, and use their public address (PA) systems to remind people of the requirement. Any person entering a site without relevant proof of immunity could be fined 1,000 shekels ($303), with the venues facing much higher penalties.

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Restrictions on events involving more than 100 people in closed venues, such as banquet halls, clubs, and conference venues, have also gone into effect, and require participants to present a vaccination, or recovery certificate, or a negative test result. These so-called Green Pass requirements in Israel apply to all events that take place in closed spaces, even if they also partially take place outdoors or if the venue also has an outdoor space. 

Ahead of the coronavirus cabinet on Thursday, Nachman Ash, the director of the health ministry, told Ynet that their recommendations will revolve around the airport: "There are a few options that should decrease the virus' entry rate to Ben-Gurion airport," he said. 

"The approach that's been discussed in the cabinet at length […] do we track the number of serious patients and postpone further measures till the number of serious patients go up, or do we pay more attention to the 'R number' [the number of people each sick individual infects] and the number of confirmed cases, and then stop at an earlier stage. Our professional opinion is that immediate measures should be taken, we think it's incorrect to wait, it'll be difficult to stop once we reach larger numbers," he continued.

Ash added that the new restrictions "will do something, but in my estimation, not at a level that will stop or lower the 'R number' in as drastic of a manner as we would like, and more measures are necessary."

According to the latest Health Ministry data, there were 1,400 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, a slight increase from 1,380 on Monday. The percentage of positive tests went down to 1.76 from 1.86. As of Wednesday, there are two more COVID-19 patients in serious condition, bringing the number to 63.  

The new restrictions stipulate that businesses or public places will be fined 10,000 shekels ($3,036) for failing to check proper documentation, 3,000 shekels ($910) for not putting up signs laying down the requirement to present proof of immunity, and 1,000 shekels ($303) for serving somebody without a mask or failure to comply with the sign requirements for masks. 

In addition to the other regulations, venue operators must also appoint a coronavirus supervisor.

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