Nightclubs, eateries sanctioned for violating pandemic rules
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Nightclubs, eateries sanctioned for violating pandemic rules

Tel Aviv hands out 20 fines to establishments found not-complying with directives; Haifa shutters three clubs

A party is held at Ha'Oman 17 nightclub in Tel Aviv, in violation of social distancing guidelines, May 2020 (video screenshot)
A party is held at Ha'Oman 17 nightclub in Tel Aviv, in violation of social distancing guidelines, May 2020 (video screenshot)

A number of nightclubs, bars, and eateries in Tel Aviv and Haifa were fined over the weekend for not adhering to rules set out by the government for reopening their businesses. These rules include hosting patrons wearing face masks and keeping groups at a physical distance of two meters from each other.

In Tel Aviv, Mayor Ron Huldai said that some 200 fines of NIS 5,000 ($1,427) were handed out to businesses across the city, including the popular nightclub Ha’Oman 17 which hosted hundreds of clubgoers who appear to have flaunted the rules in video footage. The owner has been summoned for a hearing, according to Hebrew media reports.

“I have instructed municipal law enforcement to act without compromise to implement the health guidelines. Just as we were determined in our position that businesses in the city should be reopened, we will work resolutely to protect the public health,” Huldai said.

He added that owners of places of business in the food industry such as restaurants and bars were responsible for their customers’ health, and condemned recent photos and videos from various establishments in the city that showed patrons with no masks and no physical distance.

In Haifa, at least three nightclubs were shut by police after allegedly not adhering to the directives, according to Hebrew media reports. It is unclear how nightclubs are expected to enforce the rules.

A co-owner of Ha’Oman 17 told Channel 12 news Saturday night that the club hosted a private party for some 600 people and tried to hand out masks at the door but “people didn’t” listen.

Shaul Mizrahi, co-owner of the popular Barby club in Tel Aviv, said he would go on a hunger strike to protest what he called an impossible situation imposed by the government. The Barby, which hosts live shows, is expected to re-open in two weeks’ time, but Mizrahi told Channel 12 that authorities have not given directives for establishments that host events with no seating.

He criticized the government harshly, saying people in his industry have not received a single cent. Mizrahi indicated that he would begin his hunger strike this coming week in Jerusalem across from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday evening that the government will look to step up enforcement of the rules by taking action against places of business that violate the “purple badge” directives under which shops, malls, restaurants, bars, and other establishments were allowed to reopen this month after weeks of closures.

The premier warned of “a steep increase” in new coronavirus infections in Israel in recent days, but said it was too early to tell whether there would be an upward trend that would warrant the reimposition of closures.

Israel has had some important successes in fighting the global pandemic, Netanyahu said during a televised statement Saturday, but the crisis “is not behind us.”

“We put out the flames of the coronavirus but there are still embers, and any light wind could reignite these flames,” the prime minister said.

The Health Ministry on Saturday evening said that a sharp dip in coronavirus infections was recorded over the past 24 hours, with just 25 new confirmed cases. The announcement came as authorities were voicing concerns about a possible new COVID-19 wave after a spike in new infections over the past several days, including 121 cases between Friday and Saturday morning.

Israel currently has 1,917 active cases, with a majority under medical care at home and just 116 in hospital. Of those cases, 36 are in serious condition with 34 requiring mechanical ventilation. In Israel, 284 people have died of the virus since the outbreak reached the country earlier this year.

Previously, Israel had seen weeks where new diagnoses hovered at around 20 or less a day. Friday’s announcement marked the first time that the 100 mark has been breached since May 2. That lull allowed Israel to relax most lockdown restrictions meant to stop the spread of the virus.

Condemning what he termed a “loosening” of Israelis’ adherence to social-distance rules, Netanyahu on Saturday said the coming days will be a “test” to see whether restrictions will need to be put back in place.

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