New restrictions amid coronavirus slowdown. Aid package for jobless, firms

A new set of restrictions on public movement in Israel still falls short of the Health Ministry’s demand for a full lockdown to halt the spread of coronavirus, although it is beginning to slow down. The rate is now doubling once every eight days instead of every three days as it did last week. The figures on Monday were 4,347 infections, 63 in serious condition and 16 fatalities. Health experts advise waiting for t least two weeks amid tight restrictions before confirming a stable trend.

In a broadcast Monday, March 30, PM Binyamin Netanyahu announced that henceforth outside meetings will be restricted to two members of the same close family; the workforce reduced from 30 pc to 15 pc; no more than 10 mourners at funerals and no invited guests at weddings; likewise the Passover Seder next week must be conducted within the strict framework of the nuclear family.
Details of the aid-cum-stimulation package of NIS80 bn ($22.2) were next outlined by Finance Minister Yitzhak Kahlon. NIS10 are earmarked for the health authorities’ fight against covid-19; NIS20 for a social safety net for workers, the self-employed, and working pensioners who are not entitled to unemployment benefits. Another NIS32 bn is allotted to help small and large businesses cover immediate losses; and NIS8 bn as economic stimulants. Individuals whose livelihood is shot down will receive grants of NIS6 this month and NIS8 next month. Municipal tax will be lifted temporarily for businesses forced to shut down who will also be awarded certain income tax refunds.

Kahlon said that the aid package, amounting to 6pc of the GDP, is the largest any Israeli government has ever awarded.  Thousands of owners of small business demonstrated in Tel Aviv earlier Monday in protest over government foot-dragging in delivering this rescue program.

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