Knesset Doubles Fines for Violations Ahead of Extension

YERUSHALAYIM -
A man wearing a face mask walks in the Old City of Yerushalayim on Sunday. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Knesset voted Sunday afternoon to increase fines imposed for violations of the lockdown, paving the way for a government resolution to extend the ongoing lockdown.

42 MKs voted in favor of the bill increasing fines, with 18 MKs voting against.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz had demanded the bill’s passage before agreeing to have the government deliberate on a one-week extension of the lockdown.

With the Knesset’s support for the increased fines, the government is now set to convene to deliberate on the one-week extension, which it is expected to pass Sunday evening.

Meanwhile, a predicted turnaround in the COVID-19 crisis could be weeks later than previously thought as coronavirus variants offset its vaccination drive.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had promoted a speedy vaccination of Israel‘s most vulnerable cohorts – around 24% of 9 million citizens – and the lockdown as dual pathways to a possible reopening of the economy in February.

But a projected mid-January turnaround in curbing the pandemic did not transpire. Serious cases have surged among Israelis who have not yet been vaccinated. Officials blame this on communicable foreign virus strains and on lockdown scofflaws.

Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said there would be “a few weeks’ delay” to the Israeli exit plan, and set a higher vaccination threshold for a turnaround.

“Our goal is to achieve 5.5 million [fully vaccinated citizens] and I reckon that the moment we cross the 3-to-3.5 million [mark] you will already see change,” he told Kan radio.

As of the end of the week, 1.7 million Israelis had received the second dose of the Pfizer Inc. vaccine more than a week ago, achieving the maximum 95% protection, the Health Ministry said.

Around another 1.3 million had either received one dose and were awaiting the second or had received the second dose within the last week and so were not yet designated as fully vaccinated.