At the end of the Shavuot holiday weekend, in which the incidence of Covid-19 rose, mainly in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a small circle of ministers to discuss solutions for dealing with a second wave of the disease.
Netanyahu made a joint announcement with new Minister of Education Yoav Galant and Minister of Finance Yisrael Katz. Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein was not a participant in the announcement, not was any representative of Likud's coalition partners Blue & White, despite the fact that only a few days ago the government approved the formation of a ministerial committee on the coronavirus with half its members from Blue & White.
Netanyahu said in his statement that he had seen Israelis at the beach and partying over the weekend. "I heard you saying, 'coronavirus is over,' but that's not true. The pandemic is not behind us.
"The pandemic is still here, among us and within us. We put out the big flames, but the embers of the pandemic are still here and the slightest wind starts a fire.
"We must all get back to keeping the rules, and that includes me, government ministers, and the public. The rules are simple: masks in public space, a distance of two meters between people, and washing hands. If we don't do this, there will be no choice but to return to the restrictions. If we do do it, we can get the economy back to work, and restore growth.
"From now on, we will encourage the activity of businesses that are strict about the rules, and act against those that don’t respect them. You must remember that the virus is lethal, it spreads exponentially, and claims human lives.
"We have reached a rate of just a handful of new infections daily. We have opened up the economy and the education system. When we announced the removal of restrictions, we said that it would be a trial opening. We have set the next few days as a test period, to see if there is a change in trend that will require the education system to be shut down. For the time being we have decided not to close education institutions. This week, we shall update the purple tag to adapt it to the situation and the routine of the contagion.
"I have instructed the minister of internal security to step up enforcement of the rules by the police. Up to now, enforcement has been on a very small scale. I have asked the Ministry of Justice to allow enforcement by municipal inspectors. The minister of education will see to observance of the rules in the schools.
"I ask you, citizens of Israel, to be punctilious about the main thing, without hair-splitting. Three main rules: social distancing, masks, hygiene. Until a vaccine is found, we are on a long march with a precipice beside us. In the past few days, with people showing contempt for the rules, we have come nearer to the precipice. Every individual must take care not to become infected and not to infect others. We are all responsible for one another. If we act that way, we will restore the economy and jobs," Netanyahu concluded.
Minister of Finance Yisrael Katz said, "We want to get the economy working again. We are at the height of a critical process, giving incentives for bringing back workers who are now sitting at home. We have formulated a sharp and rapid plan.
"Under the plan, every employer, large or small, who takes an employee back to work, will receive an incentive of NIS 7,500, from Monday, June 1. Anyone who brought an employee back in May will receive NIS 3,500. The grant is conditional on the employee being employed for at least four months.
"For demobilized soldiers, students, and part-time workers, we have lowered the threshold to NIS 3,300 monthly, meaning that is, even an employee who hires workers earning from NIS 3,300 a month will be able to receive the grant. The more people that a business employs, the higher will be the grant it receives. It will not be able to lay off employees and hire new ones. The number of employees needs to grow.
"There will be criticism of the program, as of any program. There's always criticism. But this program deals with the problem of preventing people from becoming chronically unemployed, because if people get back to work, the economy will grow again."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 31, 2020
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