(March 17, 2020 / JNS) Israel’s public sector will transition to “emergency footing” due to the COVID-19 crisis, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced during a Monday-night press conference in Jerusalem.
Under the new measures, up to 80 percent of government and local authority employees will go on leave from Wednesday until after Passover, which ends in Israel on April 15. (The holiday is celebrated from April 8 to April 16 outside the Jewish state.)
“Every director general of a government ministry will inform employees over the next 24 hours who among them will go to work, who will work at home and who will go on leave,” said Netanyahu.
The prime minister also announced that the private sector will be required to reduce the number of employees coming to the workplace by 70 percent through a shift system, working from home, or other methods. Businesses with fewer than 10 employees can continue to operate as normal, added Netanyahu, as long as they uphold the two-meter separation rule.
Essential services, such as supermarkets, banks and pharmacies, will continue to operate as usual, as will trains and buses, though there will be changes to public transportation, he said. He did not elaborate on what those changes would be, referring the public to the Transportation Ministry website.
Alongside Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Netanyahu announced the introduction of an “economic safety net at the disposal of every Israeli citizen.”
“Many people will be at home and not at work. Many people are concerned or worried that they will not have enough money. We are listening to you,” he said.
The new instructions were to take effect on Monday night.
At the press conference, Kahlon designated NIS 5 billion ($1.3 billion) for unemployment benefits for workers placed on leave who have been employed for six months or more; such benefits were formerly available only for workers employed for a year or more.
Small-business owners will also be able to postpone payments of property tax, water, electricity and national insurance. Grants up to NIS 6,000 ($1,600) will also be offered to small businesses and freelancers.
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