Israel expands economic safety net to deal with nationwide lockdown

Jerusalem, Sept. 12, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A vendor sells face masks in Jerusalem's Old City amid the COVID-19 pandemic on Sept. 11, 2020. Israel's Ministry of Health reported 3,038 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the total number in the country to 148,564.

Tel Aviv, (Asian independent) Israel has expanded its Covid-19 national economic safety net program ahead of the full nationwide lockdown that will begin on Friday, the Prime Minister’s Office and Finance Ministry said in a joint statement.

The new expansion plan, decided by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz, is intended to provide a dedicated response to the businesses affected by the closure, which will last for at least three weeks, the statement said on Thursday night.

The new plan also includes measures that will help reduce the damage to the Israeli labour market.

As part of the plan, more businesses will be entitled for governmental support, state-guaranteed loans, and reduced municipal taxes.

Also, some employers will receive employee retention grants, in the amount of 5,000 new shekels ($1,460) for each employee they kept, to encourage employment and prevent mass layoffs.

In addition, employees who are put on unpaid leaves by their employers will receive increased unemployment benefits.

The full lockdown in Israel, imposed due to a rapid rise in Covid-19 infections, will begin on Friday at 2 p.m.

It includes a ban on moving more than 500 meters away from home, as well as the closure of most shops and all places of culture, entertainment, leisure and tourism.

The new lockdown will include a 500-metre distance limit from home, and the closure of restaurants, hotels, culture and entertainment places, and shops, except for essential places such as supermarkets and pharmacies.

Many workplaces will also be closed or will operate partially with work from home.

The closure will be the first in a three-stage coronavirus mitigation plan.

The second and third stages, which will include easing restrictions, will take effect only after the pandemic situation is improved.

The total number of coronavirus cases in Israel has increased to 175,256, while the death toll stood at 1,169.