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Drones, arrests and warnings: Israel takes on violators of mask mandates and green passport system

Stepped-up enforcement to be accompanied by expanded restrictions bringing Israel back to pre-vaccination restrictions

Illustrative - A drone with intercom used by Daytona Beach police to enforce coronavirus closures (Photo: screenshot)

It seems Israel may have taken notes from a video that went viral on social media of police in Australia using drones to enforce lockdown restrictions.

According to report on Channel 12 last week, Israeli police will use drones with loud speakers as police start to get tougher on the new set of restrictions that have come into effect this week.

According to a report, police will focus their efforts on cities with high rates of COVID infection and will encourage mask wearing. At least two videos are circulating around Israel of men being handcuffed and arrested for being in a mall without a mask. One of the men fainted during the arrest.

But the message that came out this week from law enforcement is that they plan to crack down on infractions such as these even harder.

Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev said that avoiding another lockdown depends on two things: a third COVID shot for those over 60 (lowered to 50 on Thursday) and mask wearing – which is only required indoors at the moment.

“The second you hesitate, if – God forbid – it comes to that, in the end we will lose twice over,” Bar Lev said. ”Once for imposing a lockdown and a second time for not warning the public. It mainly depends on two things – the masks and vaccinations of people aged 60 and over.”

Police have been bolstered by local inspectors at malls and have even shown up at events such as weddings looking for violators. Just this week they announced a 400% increase in fines including 64 citations for violating quarantine; 72 for violating the green passport and 1,927 for not wearing masks.

As law enforcement steps up, the Corona Cabinet approved on Wednesday a further expansion of restrictions, this time to limit the size of gatherings and the occupancy of stores and other indoor spaces. Also masks will be required at large outdoor gatherings.

With this, called the “Purple Badge” system, Israel has more or less returned to all regulations that were in place at the height of infection.

This comes as Israel registered twice last week more than 6,000 confirmed daily cases. Today, the number of patients hospitalized in serious condition passed 500 – the first time since March.

Israel is one of the world's most highly vaccinated nations and even emerged from heavy restrictions in June – just to find itself back with masks and stringent restrictions weeks later.

The green passport now applies to children down to the age of 3 who need a negative COVID test to enter certain venues.

More restrictions and a possible lockdown are expected in the coming weeks to limit religious gatherings and prayers in lieu of the Jewish holidays.

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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