Gov't advances bill to double fines for breaking COVID-19 rules

Gamzu: ‘10 times more coronavirus cases than are verified’

Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu is seen meeting with Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz. (photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu is seen meeting with Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz.
(photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation voted on Tuesday to advance a bill that would double coronavirus fines from NIS 5,000 to NIS 10,000, as health officials warned that morbidity is on the rise.
All the ministers voted in favor of the proposal, except for Religious Affairs Minister Avitan and Water and Higher Education Minister Ze’ev Elkin. The bill must now be legislated in the Knesset starting Wednesday.
United Torah Judaism MKs will vote against it in the Knesset, but it is expected to pass easily with the support of opposition MKs.
The doubling of the fines was a concession after efforts to quadruple them to NIS 20,000.
Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel complained in the meeting that haredi (ultra-Orthodox) institutions are given carrots but not sticks.
The announcement of the proposed fines came shortly after coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu said  Tuesday that he estimated there are 10 times more people with coronavirus in Israel than the number that is verified.
Speaking during a visit with Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz to the Alon national headquarters for breaking chains of infections, Gamzu said, “We talk about 600 verified cases, I estimate there are 10 times more verified people than we know. There is suspicion that people do not come to be tested.”
He said that those who suspect they might have coronavirus and do not get screened are putting stage three of the country’s exit strategy at risk.
On Monday, the coronavirus cabinet met and reviewed recent data that showed morbidity is on the rise and the country has surpassed a reproduction rate of 0.8. A reproduction rate is the number of people a sick person infects. The Health Ministry said that the country should not open up further if the rate does not remain under that level.
Street shops are expected to open on Sunday and stage three of the exit strategy is supposed to commence one week later.
During the visit, Gantz said that now the country now has a system for cutting chains of infection “among the best in the world, not only in the number of investigators but also in work efficiency.” He said that Israel can now investigate as many as 4,000 cases per day.
Gamzu reminded that “a lot of people did not like the fact that the IDF would take responsibility” for cutting the chains of infection and said that “the IDF could not do it because it was a medical task.”
Gantz said that the Home Front Command is operating in hundreds of municipalities and assisting in red, orange, yellow and green local authorities. However, “all this will not help if the public does not cooperate.”
Multiple reports have indicated that a large percentage of Israelis lie during or do not cooperate with the epidemiological tracking process.
Gamzu expressed similar sentiments: “Anyone who does not cooperate – the person being investigated must share all of his contacts, if he does not share everyone with whom he has been in contact – it is a major problem.”
Later in the day, Gamzu participated in a strategic meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to brainstorm ideas for further dealing with the challenges of the pandemic.
The meeting, according to N12, was referred to as a “consultation of the professors” and included other top health and government officials, such as Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, outgoing coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu, Science and Technology Minister Izhar Shay, Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy and former Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov.
On Tuesday evening, the Health Ministry reported 776 new cases out of 35,520 who were screened. There were 393 people in serious condition, including 171 who were intubated. Eight people died between midnight and press time, bringing the death toll to 2,592.