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Police give thousands of fines over holiday for closure breaches, as cases mount

Cafe in Tel Aviv gets NIS 5,000 fine for opening; 3 more deaths take national toll to 1,229; major test for lockdown expected Sunday evening in latest anti-Netanyahu protests

  • Bicylcists ride their bikes in a park in Tel Aviv, on September 20, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    Bicylcists ride their bikes in a park in Tel Aviv, on September 20, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • The empty Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, on September 20, 2020 amid the second coronavirus lockdown. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    The empty Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, on September 20, 2020 amid the second coronavirus lockdown. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Police at a temporary checkpoint on a nearly empty road outside Jerusalem's Old City on September 19, 2020, during a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Police at a temporary checkpoint on a nearly empty road outside Jerusalem's Old City on September 19, 2020, during a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • An empty stretch of road on Route 1 is seen on September 19, 2020, during a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
    An empty stretch of road on Route 1 is seen on September 19, 2020, during a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
  • A Palestinian woman wearing a protective mask walks on an empty street lined with closed shops in Jerusalem's Old City, on September 19, 2020, amid a nationwide lockdown due to a spike in coronavirus infections. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
    A Palestinian woman wearing a protective mask walks on an empty street lined with closed shops in Jerusalem's Old City, on September 19, 2020, amid a nationwide lockdown due to a spike in coronavirus infections. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
  • Police officers patrol on a beach as Israelis demonstrate in Tel Aviv against the nationwide coronavirus lockdown, on September 19, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)
    Police officers patrol on a beach as Israelis demonstrate in Tel Aviv against the nationwide coronavirus lockdown, on September 19, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)
  • A picture taken from Beit Jala shows the Israeli checkpoint that links the West Bank city of Bethlehem to Jerusalem, after it was closed by the authorities in a bid to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, on September 19, 2020. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
    A picture taken from Beit Jala shows the Israeli checkpoint that links the West Bank city of Bethlehem to Jerusalem, after it was closed by the authorities in a bid to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, on September 19, 2020. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
  • Kite surfers and beachgoers are seen at a cordoned-off beach in Tel Aviv on September 19, 2020, during a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
    Kite surfers and beachgoers are seen at a cordoned-off beach in Tel Aviv on September 19, 2020, during a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
  • A view of a nearly deserted Jaffa Street in Jerusalem on September 19, 2020, during a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    A view of a nearly deserted Jaffa Street in Jerusalem on September 19, 2020, during a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Ultra-Orthodox Jews wearing protective masks walk on an empty street on their way to synagogue for the Rosh Hashanah prayers in Jerusalem, on September 19, 2020, amid a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
    Ultra-Orthodox Jews wearing protective masks walk on an empty street on their way to synagogue for the Rosh Hashanah prayers in Jerusalem, on September 19, 2020, amid a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
  • A Palestinian shop owner sits next to his merchandise on an otherwise empty street in Jerusalem's Old City, on September 19, 2020, amid a nationwide lockdown due to a spike in coronavirus infections. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
    A Palestinian shop owner sits next to his merchandise on an otherwise empty street in Jerusalem's Old City, on September 19, 2020, amid a nationwide lockdown due to a spike in coronavirus infections. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Police on Sunday afternoon said they had handed out 2,802 fines over the past day for various infractions of lockdown rules and other coronavirus regulations, as Israel’s death toll rose by three and its case count by over 3,000.

Police said the majority of fines, 2,044, were given to people who ventured out over a kilometer from their homes without valid cause. Another 629 were given for failure to wear masks, 37 were handed out for breaking quarantine, 30 were given to businesses or other locations that opened against the rules, and other small numbers for various offenses.

A Tel Aviv cafe that opened in contravention of restrictions and was catering to some 50 customers was shut down by policemen, and its owner was given an NIS 5,000 ($1,460) fine.

Meanwhile the Health Ministry reported three new coronavirus deaths since Saturday afternoon, with the national toll now at 1,229. It said Saturday saw 3,406 cases diagnosed — a drop from previous days, but one that was attributable to less testing over the Rosh Hashanah holiday. Positive rates remained high, with 8.9 percent of tests returning positive out of 38,110 conducted.

Israel had a total of 185,490 cases Sunday of which 50,749 are active. Of those sick, 607 were in serious condition (153 of them on ventilators) and 257 were in moderate condition. The rest had mild or no symptoms.

Police have said the public has so far largely adhered to restrictions that came into effect Friday afternoon, in the government’s latest effort to curb the surging pandemic. The closure will remain in effect for at least three weeks. Israel, which has one of the highest infection rates in the world, became the first advanced country to order a second lockdown to fight the pandemic.

The new lockdown is more permissive than the weeks-long closure imposed earlier this year, with numerous exceptions to the rules, including allowances for prayers during the holiday period and solitary sports activities.

The empty Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, on September 20, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A major test for the new restrictions was expected Sunday night, when the latest demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were expected to take place outside his official residence in Jerusalem. Recent months have seen demonstrations against Netanyahu several times a week, though the largest have been on Saturdays. This week the main demonstration was put off to Sunday to coincide with the end of the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

Police on Friday said demonstrators would need to divide into “clusters” of 20 to adhere to new regulations, with social distance within and between the clusters. They said they would expand the area in which demonstrators will be allowed to congregate near the premier’s residence in order to allow this.

The Black Flags group, one of the main groups behind the protests, announced last week that it would cease its demonstrations for the duration of the lockdown. However other protest groups have said they will press on.

Netanyahu and his supporters have claimed the protests are a major vector of infections, though health officials have said no cases have been traced back to the rallies so far.

While the government was praised for its initial handling of the pandemic, implementing a strict lockdown in March, many Israelis have expressed frustration at the prime minister and the cabinet’s perceived mismanagement of the health crisis in recent months.

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