Some restrictions return as coronavirus cases continue to climb

Israel reinstates Green Pass system for indoor events with over 100 attendees; fines come into effect for businesses that don’t enforce rules, including that customers wear masks

Israelis wear protective face masks as they walk through the Carmel market in Tel Aviv, on July 20, 2021. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Israelis wear protective face masks as they walk through the Carmel market in Tel Aviv, on July 20, 2021. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

New restrictions on public life came into effect midnight Tuesday, limiting access to large indoor events and instating a raft of new fines for those violating health rules, as Israel strives to contain a recent rise in coronavirus infections.

Under the new orders, the so-called Green Pass system, first used earlier this year, will be reinstated for indoor events attended by more than 100 people.

Access to such gatherings is now limited to those who are vaccinated or have recovered, or who present a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the event. A rapid virus test can also be used if taken within the previous 24 hours. While gatherings aren’t limited in size, face masks are mandatory, except when eating or drinking.

Venues are required to have a dedicated coronavirus monitor who ensures that the rules are being followed and are required to post signs that they are operating under Green Pass rules, or face a NIS 3,000 fine ($911).

Locations that have both indoor and open-air areas are considered indoor sites under the rules.

Attendees who violate the rules will be fined NIS 1,000 ($303) while venue operators can face a NIS 10,000 fine for not checking that participants have the proper permits for entry.

Police and inspectors from local authorities will check up on venues hosting events that fall under the rules to make sure they are complying.

Aside from the indoor event rules, all businesses — including stores — are prohibited from granting entry to anyone not wearing a face mask. Violators will be fined NIS 1,000.

There is already a NIS 500 fine in place for those who enter public indoor spaces not wearing a face mask.

People are seen wearing face masks in Jerusalem, July 19, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Under the auspices of the Public Security Ministry, police will work with inspectors from the Union of Local Authorities in Israel umbrella group to enforce the rules.

The Jerusalem municipality said Tuesday that starting next week its inspectors will begin actively enforcing the indoor mask rule as ordered by health officials.

“Although the number of patients in Jerusalem is low, in order to keep the number low and keep Jerusalem green, we must all follow the guidelines and make sure to wear a mask,” Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said in a statement, referencing the Health Ministry’s color-coding system for infected areas, with green being the least infected.

“At this point in time we must act responsibly and obey the guidelines,” Lion said.

The municipality said that until next Monday it will focus efforts on informing and warning the public to adhere to the rules, and then begin full enforcement.

Last week Brig. Gen. (res.) Amos Ben-Avraham was appointed to oversee the ministry’s virus rules enforcement headquarters, which will coordinate activity between police, local authorities, and the Israel Airport Authority.

The new regulations were put together last week by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Economy Minister Orna Barbivai, and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz. They were later approved by the coronavirus cabinet, a panel of ministers tasked with forming virus policy.

Authorities were said to also be mulling more moves, with case numbers continuing to climb. That could include applying the Green Pass system to all indoor venues, regardless of size, including businesses and restaurants, Channel 12 reported Tuesday.

There were 1,400 new virus cases diagnosed Tuesday, the highest daily caseload since mid-March, according to Health Ministry figures. There were 8,993 active virus patients in the country, 59 of them in serious condition — up two from the day before, the ministry said Wednesday.

A technician collects swab samples for COVID-19, at a testing center run by the Tel Aviv municipality in cooperation with Tel haShomer hospital, at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, on July 20, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israel has seen coronavirus cases rise sharply over the last month, after nearly eradicating the disease and removing nearly all restrictions in May and June.

Health officials have linked the recent spike in infections in Israel to travelers who brought back new variants of the virus from abroad and did not properly quarantine after arriving.

The resurgence of coronavirus in Israel has been largely attributed to the spread of the Delta variant, which was first detected in India and is believed to be twice as contagious as the original COVID strain.

Since the start of the pandemic last year, 854,981 have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Israel and 6,452 people have died of the virus, according to the Health Ministry figures.

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