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June 22, 2020 12:38 pm

Israel’s ‘Corona Cabinet’ Approves New Restrictions, as Economy Continues to Take Hit

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Passengers are seen through a window as they wear masks while traveling on a bus, in Tel Aviv, Israel, June 18, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen.

The Israeli government’s ad hoc “Corona Cabinet” approved on Monday several new measures to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

At a meeting of the forum, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was facing a “systemic increase in morbidity,” and he outlined new restrictions that could be imposed.

The prime minister highlighted four steps that could be taken: a major increase in enforcement, including fines; the use of digital tools to track infections; the shutdown of specific regions with high rates of the virus; and restrictions on crowd size.

The “Corona Cabinet” then approved raising the fine for not wearing a mask from NIS 200 to NIS 500. The decision must be approved by the Knesset.

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The forum also approved the closure of businesses that failed to follow current guidelines.

Furthermore, a measure was approved to prepare for up to 2,000 patients on ventilators.

The economic impact of the pandemic continues to worsen, with Israel’s National Insurance Institute saying that unemployment benefits for 469,314 people are set to expire in August, while 373,817 people will lose their benefits in July, leaving them without a source of income.

Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Itzik Shmuli spoke of “half a million Israelis who will become the new poor.”

Shmuli said the government must extend unemployment benefits in order “to avoid a situation in which the same group of hundreds of thousands of Israelis will be below the poverty line.”

He criticized the government for its failure to discuss the current crisis, saying, “Some people think the economy will do its thing.”

There are currently 4,848 active cases of the coronavirus in Israel, with 307 deaths. Some 294 patients were added over the weekend.

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