Authorities looking to punish man who shopped at IKEA knowing he was sick
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Authorities looking to punish man who shopped at IKEA knowing he was sick

Jerusalem resident later confirmed to be infected with coronavirus; if charged could face up to 3 years in jail for endangering public health

Israelis wait outside the IKEA branch in Netanya, after the company opened some of its branches in Israel, on April 26, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Israelis wait outside the IKEA branch in Netanya, after the company opened some of its branches in Israel, on April 26, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The Health Ministry is reportedly pushing for criminal sanctions against a man who shopped at an IKEA store this week despite not feeling well and who was later confirmed to have the coronavirus.

The ministry said Friday that the man, who reports identified as a resident of an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem, visited the Swedish furniture chain’s branch in Rishon Lezion on Monday between 4-5 p.m.

Any shoppers there during that time were instructed to go into self-quarantine until May 12.

“If he was aware that he was sick, then this is a severe matter because behavior like this endangers others and harms the ability to return to normal,” a Health Ministry source was quoted saying by Channel 12 news.

If tried and found guilty of endangering public health, he could face up to three years in prison.

It was unclear from the report if the ministry had asked police to open an investigation into the incident.

Earlier Friday, Health Ministry sources told the Ynet news site that the man “knew he was suffering from symptoms,” but went to the store anyway.

IKEA said in response that it adheres to Health Ministry directives and was checking the details of the incident.

The chain has recently been a focal point of protesters angry over the government-approved restrictions to contain the coronavirus, after its mega-stores were allowed to open last week before many smaller businesses and other public facilities.

On Tuesday, bereaved family members of fallen soldiers demonstrated outside IKEA stores over the closure of military cemeteries on Memorial Day.

There was also an outcry over a report that outgoing Health Minister Yaakov Litzman allowed IKEA  to reopen its Israeli stores because its owners had given millions of shekels in donations to his Gur Hasidic sect.

The report was denied by the Health Ministry, who said the decision had been made at the request of the Finance Ministry.

“The reports about the ties between the managers of the IKEA chain and ultra-Orthodox elements having led to the opening of the chain are nonsense that isn’t worth responding to,” the Health Ministry said in a statement.

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