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Police ramp up lockdown enforcement, replace roadblocks with mobile patrols

Ahead of Sukkot festival, law enforcement officials say they will have ‘no tolerance’ for large gatherings in sukkahs

Israeli policemen stop vehicles at a checkpoint in East Jerusalem while enforcing a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, on September 25, 2020 (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
Israeli policemen stop vehicles at a checkpoint in East Jerusalem while enforcing a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, on September 25, 2020 (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

The Israel Police announced Thursday that it is stepping up enforcement of the national coronavirus lockdown before the Sukkot holiday, noting that it would rely less on static checkpoints and more on mobile motorcycles and patrol cars to randomly question people regarding their reasons for being out of the house.

According to a report by Ynet, quoting a senior police official, the change in enforcement strategy is in order to “maximize results for effective enforcement” of the regulations.

According to the official, police have encountered a large number of active COVID-19 patients and people supposed to be in quarantine on the streets, in violation of the law.

Ahead of the Sukkot holiday, which begins Friday evening and will see many Jewish Israelis spend time in booths known as sukkahs, ministers approved fines of NIS 500 ($145) for anyone caught in a sukkah not their own.

Police have said that while they do not intend to go into private sukkahs and check for violators, they will have zero tolerance for massive sukkahs that have reportedly been erected in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, meant to contain large groups of people.

The ban on visiting another person’s sukkah will remain in force for two days after the festival ends.

In the past week 22,981 fines have been handed out to people for breaking the coronavirus lockdown regulations. Police have said that 3,482 of the fines were given to people who left their homes without a valid reason, and 6,689 went to people who did not wear masks.

After a massive spike in coronavirus cases, Israel on September 18 entered its second national lockdown, which has seen most shops and businesses shuttered and most Israelis confined within a one-kilometer (0.6-mile) radius of their homes except for essentials like food and medicines.

The lockdown, which was supposed to end on October 11, will now remain in force until October 14, ministers decided Wednesday night.

Israel had a total of 248,133 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic as of Thursday morning, with 68,811 active cases, 810 of them serious. One thousand five hundred and seventy-one Israelis have died from the disease.

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