Minister knowingly breaks virus guidelines to attend ribbon-cutting
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Minister knowingly breaks virus guidelines to attend ribbon-cutting

After voting to limit gatherings to 20 people, and as businesses close nationwide, Miri Regev goes ahead with speech at event while admitting social distancing rules were violated

Transportation Minister Miri Regev at a ceremony inaugurating an interchange near Ashkelon, July 7, 2020. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Transportation Minister Miri Regev at a ceremony inaugurating an interchange near Ashkelon, July 7, 2020. (Screen capture: Twitter)

A day after the government passed new measures dramatically restricting public gatherings, a senior minister participated Tuesday in an event even though she admitted it violated the restrictions.

While owners of event halls, culture venues, bars and gyms were closing down their businesses to comply with the new orders, Transportation Minister Miri Regev made an appearance at a ceremony inaugurating a new interchange near the city of Ashkelon.

A video of the ceremony aired by Channel 13 showed a tent with at least 25 chairs set up at distance from each other, with a spread of food and drinks for participants.

Under current rules that took force earlier this week, gatherings of more than 20 people are forbidden.

Channel 13 reported that the shindig, which included live music, cost some NIS 200,000 ($58,000).

Regev went ahead with her speech even though she herself admitted the crowd was too large and wasn’t within the guidelines.

“We are not exactly within what the Health Ministry has instructed,” she said from the podium. “We are in an open area, but there need to be fewer people. Next time I will ensure these things happen.”

The event was also attended by Ashkelon Mayor Tomer Glam and by Nissim Peretz, the director of the National Roads Company of Israel.

Regev spoke at length about the importance of sticking to the social distancing guidelines, warning that the government doesn’t want to be forced to impose a national lockdown.

At the end of her speech, Regev told the crowd: “I ask you to adhere [to the guidelines].”

On Monday, the cabinet passed a raft of restrictions to contain the renewed coronavirus outbreak, including limits on crowds in restaurants and synagogues and on public transportation, and shuttering event halls, cultural venues, swimming pools, gyms, bars and nightclubs.

The decision by the cabinet limits restaurants to 20 customers in indoor areas and 30 people in outdoor areas, with tables set at a distance from one another.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Culture Minister Miri Regev in the Knesset on February 8, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

All public gatherings will be capped at 20 people, wearing face masks and keeping a distance of two meters. That restriction came into effect Monday night.

The cabinet accepted a proposal by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to keep synagogues open, but with a maximum occupancy of 19 people, down from the current 50.

That decision also stated that within 48 hours, the Finance Ministry must introduce a compensation package for those harmed by the new regulations.

Daily coronavirus infections again surged past the 1,000 mark on Tuesday, with more than 6,000 new cases confirmed in the past week, according to the Health Ministry.

The Health Ministry said in its morning update that the total number cases in the country had reached 31,186, a rise of 1,024 compared to Monday morning.

The number of active cases grew to a new record of 12,717. Of them, 85 were in serious condition, including 35 on ventilators. Another 85 were in moderate condition, and the rest were experiencing mild or no symptoms.

Four new COVID-19 deaths were recorded since Monday evening, bringing the toll since the start of the pandemic to 338, according to the ministry.

The ministry said 23,046 coronavirus tests were conducted on Monday, 4.6 percent of which returned with a positive result.

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