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March 18, 2020 3:02 pm
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Israel Prepares for Total Lockdown, Religious Institutions Close, 400,000 Could Be Unemployed by End of Month

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

People get their hair cut in a barber shop in Jerusalem as workers wear face masks as a protection against coronavirus, March 18, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Ammar Awad.

As the coronavirus crisis continued to intensify, Israel’s security agencies prepared for the possibility of a total lockdown of the country, the Ministry of Health shut down all religious education institutions and it was estimated that 500,000 Israelis could be unemployed by next month.

Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan on Wednesday told the heads of the various security agencies to formulate detailed plans for a complete shutdown of the country, saying that such a move was “inevitable.”

“The decision to move to full quarantine is very difficult,” he reportedly said, “but in the current situation it is inevitable and it is best to take difficult immediate measures to beat the coronavirus in the shortest time and to prevent deaths.”

The Israel Police would enforce the lockdown and IDF Home Front Command would provide essential supplies to those in need of them.

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After several days of controversy, Israel’s Ministry of Health issued a directive on Wednesday on shutting down all Torah study classes, small and large yeshivas, and kollels, despite continuing objections from the ultra-Orthodox community.

The economic impact of the pandemic is already severe, with the social security institution Bituah Leumi estimating that 400,000 Israelis would be unemployed by the end of this month.

Director-General Meir Spiegler said, “We will work so that as early as next month all those who are eligible for unemployment benefits and income guarantees will receive their money.”

By April, half a million Israelis will likely be unemployed, and the budget for unemployment benefits is expected to increase by a factor of seven, amounting to NIS 2 billion ($530 million).

In a normal month, there would be 80,000 unemployed drawing benefits, of which only 17,000 would be newly unemployed.

The number of coronavirus patients in Israel continued to rise as well on Wednesday, reaching 427, with at least one considered to be in very serious condition.

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