Less than 24 hours after new emergency regulations to combat the spread of the coronavirus went into effect, police on Thursday began handing out fines, despite a statement by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan that the first few days of enforcement would be devoted to explaining the directives to the public.
The new regulations, which are aimed at keeping Israelis inside their homes as much as possible, went into effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday. From that time, people are meant to stay indoors unless they are going to a job deemed essential, purchasing food or medicine, or taking part in a small number of specific other activities approved by the government.
The government on Wednesday gave police the power to impose fines of NIS 500 or even imprisonment of up to six months for individuals violating the restrictions, as well as larger fines for businesses that do so, including a NIS 5,000 fine for illegally operating public transportation.
A police spokesman said that as of 2 p.m. Thursday, police had issued 227 tickets around the country, including 61 fines for violating quarantine, 92 fines for refusing to break up illegal gatherings and 60 orders closing shops open in violation of regulations.
In the town of Netivot in southern Israel, police closed a synagogue where dozens of people were praying.
In Mevasseret Zion, a western suburb of Jerusalem, a man was fined NIS 500 for delivering laundry. He told Channel 12 that he was fined despite telling police he was defined as an essential worker and was waiting for certification to be issued.
המאבק הלאומי לבלימת התפשטות נגיף הקורונה בישראל: עד כה המשטרה פתחה ב-135 חקירות נגד מפרי בידוד, וב-37 חקירות נוספות בעקבות חשד להפצת הודעות כזב. בוצעו כ-38,000 ביקורים למבודדים, נרשמו 250 דו"חות, והוצאו צווי סגירה ל-60 בתי עסק שהפרו הוראות @Roi_Yanovsky
(צילום: דוברות המשטרה) pic.twitter.com/E0JfRMJynj
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) March 26, 2020
A police spokesman said the force was focusing its efforts on supervision, providing information and guiding the public in order to enforce the regulations. The spokesman noted that while “thousands of civilians were observed by police as they violated the updated emergency regulations around the country and in Jerusalem in particular,” only a limited number of fines were issued.
The spokesman said the fines were aimed at producing a “deterrent effect.”
Police officers may eventually be assisted by some 650 soldiers, an undisclosed number of firefighters, and security guards from the Parks Authority and assorted government offices, who will join them on patrols, Erdan’s office said Wednesday.
Should the government decide to impose a full lockdown on the country, an additional 3,000 soldiers would assist police in enforcing it under an agreement with the military, the Israel Defense Forces said Tuesday.