Israel Police has begun issuing fines for Israelis failing to wear or carry face masks as ordered by the government in a measure aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
According to the force, 32 tickets were handed out on Tuesday.
On Sunday, ministers agreed on a NIS 200 fine for anyone caught more than once without a face mask in public, an easing of the proposed NIS 500 fine for a first time offender. The order had previously been issued as a recommendation only.
The delay in enforcing the new rule was due to officers not having received the form for a NIS 200 fine, Channel 12 news reported.
Under the rule, masks covering the mouth and nose must be worn when in “a building other than one’s residence or another place where one stays on a regular basis,” on public transport, and during “assembly in an open space.” Masks must also be carried at all times when outside of one’s home.
In addition, business owners must deny entry and service to customers not wearing masks.
The rule, however, does not apply to children under age 6; people with emotional, mental or medical conditions that would prevent them from wearing a mask; drivers in their cars; people alone in a building; and two workers who work regularly together, provided they maintain social distancing.
The masks can be homemade, makeshift, or bought.
According to the Health Ministry, “A face mask greatly reduces the likelihood of being infected and infecting others” by obstructing respiratory droplets.
The ministry has been airing ads during the nightly news about the benefits of wearing a face mask including instructions on how to fashion one using a bandana and hair ties.
Israel and other countries initially wavered on recommending or requiring mask wearing, following advice from the World Health Organization.
Earlier this month, the WHO released updated guidelines on face masks, saying there was “limited evidence” suggesting a mask worn by a person with the coronavirus would protect those around them, and “no evidence” it was effective for those who are healthy.
Moreover, it warned people to reserve medical masks for health care professionals and cautioned of a false sense of security by mask-wearers.
It added: “The use of masks made of other materials (e.g., cotton fabric), also known as nonmedical masks, in the community setting has not been well evaluated. There is no current evidence to make a recommendation for or against their use in this setting.”
Announcing details of the new rules on the Israel Police website, the force said that, “In accordance with the guidelines issued by the state leadership and the instructions of the Ministry of Health, the Israel Police is currently enforcing the restrictions aimed at combating the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Israel.”
Police said Tuesday that they have thus far issued a total of 45,475 fines for coronavirus-related offenses. Those include 36,119 for “going out into the public space in a prohibited manner, in contravention of regulations,” 5,241 tickets for “loitering in the public space in a prohibited location,” 1,085 tickets for disobeying instructions to disperse a prohibited assembly and 1,192 tickets for public prayer in contravention of the regulations.