11 new deaths reported Wednesday

Widespread reports of public flouting health directives as cases shoot up

In curfew cities and throughout country, from high schoolers to wedding guests, Israelis seen to be defying government instructions; police chief orders crackdown

Illustrative: People walk with face masks on Jaffa street in Jerusalem on September 4, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: People walk with face masks on Jaffa street in Jerusalem on September 4, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Reports of multiple public violations of social distancing, mask-wearing and other health guidelines proliferated Wednesday as virus cases in the country soared ever higher.

Acting police chief Motti Cohen on Wednesday evening ordered police officials to ramp-up enforcement of health ministry directives in the wake of multiple reports of Israelis flouting coronavirus measures, including nighttime curfews on 40 towns and neighborhoods with very high infections rates.

Among this week’s multiple violations, a large party held by high school students in the southern city of Yeruham in recent days resulted in at least 28 confirmed coronavirus cases, dozens sent into mandatory quarantine and the closure of the students’ school, Channel 12 news reported Wednesday.

Additionally, a video emerged on Tuesday evening of a Haifa nightclub that showed dozens of unmasked people dancing in a tightly packed space, in violation of health ministry guidelines.

Meanwhile a video was also published of a mass wedding in Haifa of several hundred followers of the Seret-Vishnitz Hasidic dynasty that was in contravention of Health Ministry guidelines.

Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush attended the event, explaining later he’d been there “for only a few minutes.”

According to police figures released Wednesday, the past week has seen 13 mass-events broken up by law enforcement, and 10 event halls in violation of coronavirus restrictions closed.

The police also stated that the past 24 hours saw 1,213 fines handed out for coronavirus-related violations.

Tuesday night saw a first night of curfews on 40 cities with high infection rates throughout Israel, affecting some 1.3 million Israelis, mainly from the ultra-Orthodox and Arab sectors, which have been hit especially hard by the pandemic.

The first nightly curfew, imposed between 7 p.m. Tuesday and 5 a.m. Wednesday, was widely disregarded.

Residents of different high infection locals told Hebrew-language media there was widespread confusion as the much-touted measure, designed to combat skyrocketing infection rates and set to continue for a week, was left mainly on paper.

The 40 towns have also been ordered to shutter their educational institutions at all times to prevent the spread of the virus, but according to a Channel 13 report, many schools and yeshivot in Bnei Brak — one of the curfew towns — remained open on Wednesday.

The Health Ministry said Wednesday that 3,563 new coronavirus cases were confirmed over the previous day — the highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic. Health officials say ultra-Orthodox and Arab locales have seen the most major outbreaks nationwide.

The ministry reported 11 new deaths Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 1,054. It said over 2,700 new infections had been recorded from midnight to 10 p.m. on Wednesday. There are 31,686 active patients in the country with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The number of patients in serious condition has spiked to 477, with a 142 of them on ventilators.

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