Prime Minister Naftali Bennett convened a meeting on Sunday devoted to more stringent enforcement of COVID regulations in light of a spike in the number of new cases and patients in serious condition.
After the Coronavirus Cabinet decided that all aspects of enforcing COVID regulations would be the responsibility of the Public Security Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office presented a comprehensive plan on the national efforts to enforce restrictions.
Bennett has decided that confirmed COVID carriers who knowingly violate quarantine will face criminal charges and trial. Other steps to streamline enforcement measures were also laid out, including a shortened time to pay fines levied for violations.
Bennett also instructed the attorney general and the Public Security Ministry to arrange the legal aspects of electronic surveillance measures to enforce quarantines, and stressed that celebrations – particularly weddings – would be a major target of enforcement.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit all participated in the meeting.
Earlier Sunday, Horowitz told Army Radio that Israel might be facing yet another nationwide lockdown to tamp out the current outbreak.
“Certainly, it’s a possibility, but we aren’t talking about that right now Everyone can understand that if there’s a huge outbreak and [many] seriously ill, that’s where we’ll wind up We are taking steps now so we don’t have to go there,” the health minister said.
“Without a doubt, we are seeing an outbreak of the delta variant, and that requires us to follow instructions more stringently,” he added. “The entire purpose of the steps we’re taking is so we don’t have to instate harsher restrictions, which will have very serious results.”
Horowitz also touched on the problems of COVID policies at Ben-Gurion Airport and said that “all the issues have been fixed. I remind you that a month ago, there were no restrictions on departing for or returning from these countries [under travel warnings]. Every person needs to understand his own responsibility. Don’t try to find a way around.”
When asked about reports of disagreements between senior Health Ministry officials about what steps should be taken to curb the outbreak, Horowitz said, “Nothing of the sort. Everyone sees this outbreak as something serious, as well as the increased numbers. We want to protect public health while causing minimum harm to day-to-day routine and everyone’s ability to make a living.”
Meanwhile, the number of COVID patients hospitalized in serious condition continues to rise, jumping from 52 on Friday to 63 on Sunday, the Health Ministry reported.
Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center in Yerushalayim reopened a COVID unit on the weekend, weeks after shutting down its COVID care units at the end of the third wave. Three patients on the unit are listed in serious condition, including one child.
COVID tests processed on Shabbos identified 430 new cases, with a reproduction rate of 1.47. On Friday, there were 1,118 new cases reported.
As of Sunday morning, there were 6,622 active cases in Israel.
A total of 124 COVID patients were hospitalized, including 18 in critical condition, of whom 16 were on ventilators.
Israel’s death toll since the pandemic hit the country stands at 6,448.