Israelis who don’t wear masks will be fined, says Ministry of Health official

Professor Itamar Grotto said on Sunday that wearing a mask in public will become mandatory. Israelis who don’t wear masks in public will be fined.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

In a Sunday afternoon press conference, Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Health Itamar Grotto said that his office intends to make wearing masks in public a mandatory requirement, rather than a recommendation. People who don’t wear masks in public will be fined.

The announcement came on the heels of a confrontation between Grotto and Ze’ev Rothstein, CEO of Hadassah Hospital, during an emergency Knesset panel focusing on coronavirus strategy on Sunday morning.

When asked about the number of coronavirus tests conducted in Israel, Rothstein said he believed that “The Ministry of Health’s data is inaccurate.”

Grotto responded, “Stop confusing everyone. Your data and my data are exactly the same.”

Later in the hearing, he stated that he was opposed to lifting restrictions after Passover, which was previously proposed by several Ministry of Health officials as a starting point for easing the economy back into action.

“We have no intention or ability to reopen the economy after Passover. We need to see if Passover causes an increase or decrease in cases. I personally and professionally do not recommend reopening things the day after Passover,” he said.

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During the coronavirus pandemic, Grotto has earned notoriety for his interviews with the media, which many of his critics have deemed alarmist.

In an interview with Ynet News two weeks ago, Grotto said, “This may sound like a radical step, but I think food stores will need to be shut down and the authorities will deliver rations to the public.” The comment was roundly criticized for causing unnecessary panic.

In an interview with Kan News Saturday evening, Grotto said that the Ministry of Health is no longer focused on a solution that involves mass testing. “The tests are pointless on an individual level,” he said.

“Someone could test negative, and then two minutes later test positive. If someone has symptoms, we’re going to assume that the person is a virus carrier, who needs to be isolated, and we will treat them accordingly… It’s pointless to test everyone.”

When asked about potential risks from the improper use of masks, he responded, “Yes, there are risks, but they are outweighed by the benefits. We recommend wearing masks, like half of the world’s governments are currently recommending.”

“We’re working on educational videos that teach people how to properly use masks. We used to recommend that medical personnel put on a new mask every few hours, but now we’re telling them to use one for the entire day. I personally use one mask a day,” he said.

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