Knesset approves law hiking fine for not wearing a face mask to NIS 500
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Knesset approves law hiking fine for not wearing a face mask to NIS 500

Municipal inspectors, Nature and Parks Authority inspectors and local government workers are also now able to enforce the penalty for not sporting a face covering in a public place

Police officers patrol in the ultra orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, July 6, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police officers patrol in the ultra orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, July 6, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Knesset on Monday approved a bill hiking up the fine for those eschewing face masks in public areas, as required under Health Ministry measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Under the terms of the bill, the fine is more than doubled from NIS 200 ($57) to NIS 500 ($145).

The measure passed in its second and third readings at the plenum.

The law also stipulates that fines can be given out by municipal inspectors, Israel Nature and Parks Authority inspectors and local authority workers.

Border police officers check adherence to emergency regulations in Jerusalem, July 6, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police have recently stepped up enforcement on face mask wearing, handing out thousands of fines as the number of virus cases has steadily climbed.

Earlier on Monday, police came under fire after a video emerged showing cops in Jerusalem stopping a young ultra-Orthodox girl for failing to wear a face mask properly.

The footage prompted complaints from ultra-Orthodox cabinet members who said that police are harassing their community with strict enforcement of virus guidelines in public spaces.

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, who is in charge of policing, later published an open letter calling on officers to show discretion and urging the public to understand that officers are just doing a duty that was thrust upon them.

Police stop a young ultra-Orthodox girl in Jerusalem for failing to wear a face mask properly, July 6, 2020 (Screen grab/Twitter)

Police said in a statement that the claims made around the video are false and that the cops had simply told the girl to fix her mask and sent her on her way.

The Jerusalem incident came days after police in the central city of Holon were filmed beating and tasering a man whom they claimed was caught not wearing a mask, then refused to identify himself, and resisted arrest.

Since the government lifted most lockdown measures in recent weeks there has been a surge of infections, with more active cases than during the first wave.

However, the government on Monday passed a raft of restrictions to contain the renewed coronavirus outbreak, including limiting restaurants and synagogues, reducing the number of passengers on public transportation, and shutting down event halls, cultural venues, swimming pools, gyms, bars and nightclubs. Those new restrictions still have to be approved by the Knesset’s coronavirus committee.

Health officials have repeatedly said that mask-wearing is key to curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

The Health Ministry said Monday evening that 962 people had been diagnosed in the previous 24 hours, making a total of 30,749 cases.

There were 12,359 active cases. So far 18,056 have recovered and 334 people have died.

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