Quarantine Enforcement Data Shows Large Number of House Inspections, But Very Little Fines

YERUSHALAYIM -
Police set up temporary roadblocks at the Ein Chemed junction, outside of Yerushalayim, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Feb. 3. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

​The Knesset Constitution Committee  convened on Tuesday to discuss coronavirus enforcement measures. At the meeting, Cmdr. Zvi Chassid, deputy head of the Israel Police National Coronavirus Enforcement Directorate, said that the role of the directorate was to establish a uniform and evenhanded enforcement and supervision policy. He said that at present the police’s priority was enforcement for people who returned from abroad and were required to be quarantined, as well as failure to wear masks; in the latter case, enforcement [of the mask requirement] has started to increase since last week.

Commenting on data regarding supervision of coronavirus patients and quarantined people and police enforcement, Cmdr. Chassid said: “From the beginning of March 2020 until June 2021 there were about 1,740,000 supervision actions taken, and about 664,000 administrative fines were given. Of these, close to 360,000 fines were given for failure to wear masks, and 11,827 fines were given for violating a quarantine requirement, including leaving the house or the hotel and non-arrival at the hotel. The mask requirement was the dominant offense that was enforced, followed by going out into the public space for a non-essential purpose.”

He added that 1,564 administrative closure orders had been issued for educational institutions and businesses or other places that were open in the public space. Regarding supervision of quarantined people returning from abroad from March to mid-July 2021, Cmdr. Chassid said that there were 192,000 who were prioritized for enforcement, and that about 369,000 in-person visits had been carried out. In total, he said that 600,000 supervision actions had been taken, including phone calls. However, during this period, only 1,619 fines for quarantine violations were given to people returning from abroad.

MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism) said: “One of the toughest challenges is enforcement against a normative population. The numbers are huge, but when it comes to violation of quarantine or [enforcement] against a business, enforcement should be simpler, and relative to that, it’s a missed opportunity. This is a sad graph. The State of Israel with all its enforcement agencies is cutting itself slack; it enforced what is easy and has not coped with people who violate quarantine and endanger others. Now that you don’t have masks or going out into the public space, the numbers are very low. A total of 101 fines for about 32,304 prioritized people in quarantine, that’s 0.3% who violated [quarantine] out of 10% who violated, what is the significance of that?”

Cmdr. Chassid said about the situation at Ben Gurion Airport: “The quarantine passengers land at Terminal 1, and the problem is that within the computer systems, the police officer who wants to enforce has to receive the indication that this person is [required to] quarantine. The system updates every four hours, and then he doesn’t have the indication in front of him. In addition, most of the people who land at Terminal 1 park at Terminal 3, and there are shuttles going to Terminal 3. Over 40,000 people enter and exit every day, and it’s difficult to pinpoint the quarantine passengers among them. We have no visual signal that the police officer near the train station can see.”

The Committee Chair summed up the meeting: “If you’re not troubled by the situation that people returning from ‘red’ countries are mingling, stop imposing sanctions on people. Don’t look at the committee as a body that will enable you to expand the list of countries automatically and impose quarantine on everyone who returns to Israel. We are not insensitive to the constitutional rights of Israel’s citizens. Another issue that troubles us is the enforcement gaps, and the data on quarantined people and the data on infection hot spots such as businesses, event halls and educational institutions. The test case for the practical interface between the Health Ministry and the police is the Green Pass regulations that have been placed before us. The fact that 12 hours before the regulations go into effect you are unable to tell us what will change in the operating doctrine of the enforcement agencies is peculiar. We expect to hear in the next meeting how the Green Pass affects enforcement. This is a first meeting in a series of follow-up meetings. We will hold a follow-up meeting in two weeks, and then I presume that there will be a few meetings on the regulations. It’s unacceptable for you to ask to apply the Green Pass for 28 days in such a situation. We won’t lend a hand to imposing stricter restrictions if there are no answers to the issues of electronic monitoring, the situation at Ben Gurion Airport, the gaps in quarantine enforcement and preparations for enforcement of the Green Pass that will go into effect at midnight.”