Gov’t Can Bypass Knesset on Coronavirus Regulations

YERUSHALAYIM -
The Knesset in Yerushalayim.

The Knesset has passed an emergency bill allowing the government to bypass it in making immediate decisions on combating a renewed outbreak of the coronavirus.

Parliament voted at about 4 a.m. Tuesday to sidestep its own committees so that government decisions could go into immediate effect. The argument was that quick implementation was essential given the fast-spreading nature of the virus.

Less than half of the 120 MKs were present during the vote, with just 53 MKs taking part. Of those, 29 voted in favor of the bill, with 24 voting against. Some opposition MKs decried the sidelining of the legislature, saying it marked another step in undermining the foundations of Israeli democracy.

It comes a day after the government reimposed new restrictions on the public to quell spread of the coronavirus. Gatherings have been limited and reception halls, restaurants, theaters, fitness centers and pools were ordered to shut down again.

The Knesset also voted to approve the increased fine for people found not wearing masks in public, raising the fine from 200 to 500 shekels.

Just weeks ago, Israel appeared to have contained its initial outbreak after imposing strict measures early on during a first wave of infections. But after reporting just a handful of new cases a day in early May, it has experienced a steady uptick in cases following an easing of restrictions. Currently, the country is reporting upward of 1,000 new cases a day, higher than its peak during the previous wave.