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Cabinet Approves Emergency Regulations on an Additional Easing of Restrictions Designed to Gradually Restore the Israeli Economy to a Careful Routine in the Shadow of the Coronavirus

(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Office, the Health Ministry and the Finance Ministry)

The Cabinet  approved  (Friday, 24 April 2020),  emergency regulations to further ease restrictions in order to gradually restore the Israeli economy to a careful routine in the shadow of the coronavirus. The regulations will take effect at midnight tomorrow (between Saturday, 25 April 2020, and Sunday, 26 April 2020).

The regulations are valid until Sunday, 3 May 2020. Measures to further ease restrictions after this date will be evaluated as per the continued decline in morbidity.

A) Emergency Regulations (Restriction of Activity – Amendment)

The regulations permit the sale of food by restaurants for take-away (no seating); the opening of hair salons, beauty parlors and cosmeticians including laser hair removal; and the opening of stores in the public sphere except for enclosed malls. It was also agreed that care providers may work with individuals, or with people living in the same household, without contact, while maintaining a distance of two meters among those being cared for, and wearing masks and using disinfectants.

Activity of the foregoing businesses will be subject to the conditions about maintaining public health, as determined in the regulations.

It was also determined at the meeting that the wearing of masks shall be mandatory also in the public sphere, starting from age seven, except for those engaged in sport or anyone who has a medical reason and certification to this effect. Fines shall be levied for violating the requirement to wear masks from the first offense.

It was also decided that local authority inspectors will carry out significant enforcement and monitoring so that businesses meet these conditions given concerns of a sharp increase in the number of verified cases, expansion of the chain of infection and new waves of outbreak of the coronavirus in Israel.

The detailed regulations are as follows:

1. In addition to deliveries, food outlets may offer take-away service.

The required rules for maintaining public health at restaurants are as follows: No seating at the food outlet. There will be a partition at the counter to prevent the transfer of droplets between seller and customer. Employers will schedule groups of workers in permanent shifts. Two meters' distance will be maintained among those present. The rules of hygiene, including the disinfection of surfaces, will be strictly maintained. Restaurant employees will wear masks and gloves. Entry will be regulated so that no more than two customers per active cash register will be present in a store of over 100 square meters; no more than four customers will be at any cash register. A sign will be posted regarding the maintaining of distance between people and the number of customers permitted in the food outlet.

2. All stores in the public sphere will be permitted to open except for malls, which shall remain closed.

The opening of stores will be conditional on strict maintenance of the following rules: Before opening the store, business/store owners will submit to their local authority a signed declaration according to which the detailed conditions will be met. The owner or operator of the store will – to the extent possible – provide for taking the temperature of people entering the store and will question them regarding symptoms of illness. The owner will schedule groups of workers in separate shifts. An employee responsible for coronavirus matters will be appointed. Partitions to prevent the transfer of droplets between sellers and customers shall be installed. The operator of the place will see to it that the rules of hygiene, including the disinfection of surfaces, are strictly maintained. A distance of at least two meters between people in the store shall be maintained. Care will be taken to prevent people from congregating at the entrance to the sore. Places for customers to stand in line at cash registers shall be delineated in order to maintain the distance between people; a sign to this effect shall be prominently posted. Entry to the store will be regulated so that no more than two customers per active cash register will be present; in a store of over 100 square meters, no more than four customers will be at any cash register. A sign will be posted regarding the maintaining of distance between people and the number of permitted customers. The operator of the place will determine and operate a system to limit [the number of] people entering the store.

3. Hair salons, beauty parlors and cosmeticians shall be permitted to open.

Hair salons will work according to the following rules: Business owners will submit to their local authority a declaration that the conditions are being met. The owner of the business will – to the extent possible – provide for taking the temperature of people entering the business and will question them regarding symptoms of illness. The owner will schedule groups of workers in separate shifts. The rules of hygiene – including, the disinfection of surfaces, tools, the chair and the laundering of towels and smocks, between customers – will be strictly maintained. During treatment of customers, hair salon employees will wear gloves that will be changed between customers. Masks and faceguards will be worn in addition to eyeguards. A distance of two meters will be maintained between people in the salon; a sign will to this effect shall be posted. The entry of customers to the salon will be regulated so that no more than two customers per hairdresser will be in the salon at any time. No more than four customers overall shall be in the salon at any time, six customers in salons over 75 square meters, and eight customers in salons of over 100 square meters. A sign will be prominently posted regarding he aforesaid numbers. A system will be determined to limit [the number of] people entering the salon.

4. Enforcement of the directives shall be stepped up.

In order to strictly maintain the rules set forth in the regulations and maintain public health, enforcement will be stepped up so that inspectors who have been duly authorized by the Director of the Nature and Parks Authority shall be added to the list of authorized personnel. Inspectors in local authorities shall be authorized to enforce the rules set forth in the regulations including enforcement in stores that store owners not allow in any person not wearing a mask.

Businesses that violate the rules shall be subject to a NIS 2,000 fine.

The Health Ministry calls on the public to continue maintaining the directives and instructions set forth in the regulations. The partnership of the public will allow the continuation of routine in the shadow of the coronavirus.

B) The Cabinet approved the NIS 8 billion extended assistance plan for the self-employed and small businesses:

1. Grant for regular expenses for small businesses – NIS 5.2 billion

A designated grant for small businesses (turnover of NIS 20 million), the sales turnover of which has been significantly hurt in March-April as a result of the economic effects of the spread of the coronavirus, in order to assist in covering regular expenses. The grant will also be given to non-profit associations that are defined as eligible public institutions. The grant may be up to NIS 400,000 depending on the degree to which activity has declined. The grant will be paid by the Tax Authority beginning in May.

2. Designated assistance stipend for the self-employed – NIS 2.8 billion

In continuation of the first installment, which was paid in April, a designated assistance grant will be paid to the self-employed the scope of whose activity has declined by at least 25% in March-June. The grant, which will be paid directly to bank accounts, will be 70% of their average regular income, up to NIS 10,500. This group also includes wage-earners with controlling interests. It will be possible to apply for the grant via the Tax Authority starting in the first week of May.

C) Readiness of the Public Sector for Work on an Emergency Footing during the Coronavirus Crisis (Amendment)

Due to the extension of the validity of restrictions on the economy as a whole and in order to increase the scope of service to the public while maintaining the health of workers, the Cabinet has instructed the public sector to prepare for the application of the purple badge standard. Agencies at government ministries and in the public sector will evaluate the preparation of work spaces in accordance with the health directives in order to allow more employees to go to their places of work.

D) The Cabinet approved a detailed assistance plan for the economy in dealing with the coronavirus crisis.

As determined in the basic law, yesterday evening the Finance Minister submitted to the Cabinet a detailed plan on assistance expenditures to the economy in 2020. It is anticipated that expenditures due to the coronavirus in 2020 will amount to over NIS 50 billion. The overall economic plan amounts to NIS 80 billion. It will be recalled that the economic assistance plan includes four layers: Immediate response (health and civil), a social safety net, assistance for the continuation of businesses, and acceleration. The portion that was approved includes components from all four layers.

The plan includes – inter alia – approximately NIS 10 billion to the Health Ministry, approximately NIS 3.8 billion to the self-employed, NIS 2.3 billion for Passover grants, NIS 2.5 billion for credit solutions, NIS 2.6 billion for property tax discounts for businesses and NIS 0.2 billion for improving service to citizens via digitization.

Following approval by the Cabinet, the plan will be tabled in the Knesset. Changes in the plan greater than 15% will be subject to approval by the Knesset Finance Committee.

E) The Cabinet approved the Finance Ministry proposal to continue providing adjustment stipends to people 67 and over who have lost jobs as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Pursuant to the foregoing, it was decided to approve an additional stipend for May of up to NIS 4,000 for those who have been dismissed in previous months.

 

 

 

The Cabinet, today (Wednesday, 22 April 2020), by conference call, approved emergency regulations on going out into the public sphere on Remembrance Day, Independence Day and during the month of Ramadan in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Israel.

Emergency Regulations (Restriction on Activity – Amendment)

Regulations for Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel's Wars and Victims of Terrorism:

* It will be permitted to leave one's home in order to visit the graves of IDF fallen, victims of terrorism, and memorial sites from today (Wednesday, 22 April 2020) until the eve of Remembrance Day (Monday, 27 April 2020), at 16:00.

* It should be emphasized that the regulations for the eve of Remembrance Day and Remembrance Day (starting at 16:00 on Monday, 27 April 2020), will not permit leaving one's home in order to visit cemeteries and memorial sites.

Regulations for Independence Day:

* From 17:00 on Tuesday, 28 April 2020 until 20:00 on Wednesday, 29 April 2020, people may leave their homes only to buy medicine and essential products and to receive essential services within their communities of residence, or within the closest adjacent community should these be unobtainable in their communities of residence.

* There will be no public transportation during this period.

The Health Ministry reiterates that citizens must celebrate Independence Day in their homes. The purchase of food on the eve of Independence Day and on Independence Day itself will not be permitted. People may leave their homes for fresh air and exercise adjacent to their homes (subject to regulations), as per the procedures that applied on the first night of Passover.

Regulations for the month of Ramadan:

From Thursday, 23 April 2020, until Sunday, 3 May 2020, in communities the majority of whose residents are Muslim, as well as in certain areas in Jerusalem, it has been decided that businesses and stores that receive the public will not open from 18:00-03:00, except for pharmacies. Businesses will be able to provide delivery service only.

Additional emergency regulations approved by the Cabinet:

* Leaving one's home for work interviews shall also be permitted.

* Weddings may be held in open areas with the attendance of up to 19 people, while maintaining a distance of two meters between people.

The Health Ministry calls on residents to adhere to the decisions that have been made and act accordingly, in order to safeguard families' health and to prevent the spread of the virus in the public sphere.

 

 

 

 

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Saturday, 18 April 2020), at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, issued the following statement with the Health and Finance Ministry director generals:

"Citizens of Israel, in recent weeks the State of Israel and all countries have been on an extraordinary journey, the goal of which is to ensure health and lives in the shadow of the global corona pandemic. Throughout this journey, we have taken determined and methodical steps to overcome the virus. Thanks to your responsibility, citizens of Israel, thanks to our wonderful medical teams that are on the frontline day and night, and thanks to the timely decisions and steps that we have taken, we have succeeded in this mission up until now.

Among the developed countries, the OECD member states, Israel is ranked very high in dealing with the coronavirus.

The per capita mortality rate in Israel is among the lowest in the OECD. The mortality rate among the sick in Israel is among the lowest in the OECD. Our heart is with the families of the deceased; our heart is with their deep sorrow over the loss of their loved ones. The per capita rate of tests in Israel is among the highest in the world. There is what to correct and we are organizing, enhancing and improving on the fly – because this is the war on corona. This is a war in which there is much uncertainty, a war which is attacking humanity in a manner that humanity has not known in 100 years.

But citizens of Israel, something happened in Israel today that has not happened since the start of the crisis. Up until today we have taken a series of steps the main point of which has been to tighten restrictions on movement, contact and the economy. We closed our borders. We initiated mandatory quarantine. We banned gathering in the public sphere. We reduced personnel in places of work. We used digital means to locate people who are sick with corona. We established a testing and procurement network that has grown from week to week. We imposed restrictions on movement and a general lockdown on holidays. We also imposed localized lockdowns in centers of outbreak. These steps have proven themselves in slowing the rate of infection and in stabilizing the numbers of seriously ill patients and those on ventilators. They have proven themselves mainly by reducing mortality in comparison to what could have happened. We see this in other countries. In Sweden, which had a lenient policy, there are over 1,000 deaths. In Belgium, which is more or less the same size as us, there are over 5,000 deaths, and so on. These are not pointless comparisons; you see this. There are good results here, relatively speaking of course; we would prefer that nobody be hurt, infected or die, but our good results are enabling us, today, to take steps in the opposite direction – not tightening, but easing in a responsible and gradual manner.

I believe that just as we have succeeded in being an example to the world in safeguarding life and blocking the outbreak of the pandemic, so too will we succeed in reviving the economy and restoring it to activity.

Tomorrow we will start to ease restrictions in both the personal sphere and the economic sphere, i.e. the economy. In recent days, I have consulted about the steps to open the economy with professional teams from the health system, with top economic leaders, with government ministers, with the Governor of the Bank of Israel and with experts from Israel and around the world, including this evening with noted Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch. The head of the National Security Council and his team have spoken and consulted with their counterparts in other countries. They are all dealing with the same questions; this is a very difficult dilemma.

But we see the health leg, the leg of saving lives, and the economic leg as limbs on the same body. Therefore, at the conclusion of the consultations, we have decided on the following steps.

We are raising the proportion of employees at workplaces from an average of 15% to an average of 30%.

We are enabling industry, high-tech and services to open further subject to their meeting the 'purple badge' standard. The 'purple badge' is a detailed procedure that provides for the number of employees at workplaces and details other essential steps for reducing the risk of infection. The Director General of the Health Ministry will give details presently. In order to make things easier for business owners and cut through the bureaucracy, they will not have to receive a permit from the authorities in advance to expand activity, they will declare that they meet the purple badge criteria and we, of course, will monitor this on an ongoing basis.

We are approving the opening of stores in various sectors: Housewares, opticians, laundries and other sectors that the Director General of the Finance Ministry will detail presently. For the time being, these are stores in the open public sphere, on city streets, but not in malls and markets.

I have instructed government ministries to prioritize government offices that serve the private sector and commercial activity in the economy because the self-employed, small businesses and businesses in general are the lifeblood of the economy and deserve all assistance.

From tomorrow we are also returning to activity special education in groups of up to three children and we will also allow the operation of daycare of up to three families with one provider.

We will adapt public transportation to the increased scope of economic activity, while maintaining social distancing and the wearing of masks, of course.

We will allow sport and exercise for regular pairs.

We will allow prayers outside by up to ten men, i.e. a minyan, while maintaining two meters' distance between worshippers and wearing masks.

Regarding retirement homes, Prof. Gamzu will present me with a detailed plan during the coming week. We will continue to invest very major resources in our older population because we always remember their contribution to our families and our state and we are enjoined to honor and watch over them. Older citizens of the country, the entire State of Israel embraces you and does so with great love and concern.

These are the main the points of the new plan. It was determined in cooperation with the Health and Finance ministries, and with all other government ministries. We will submit it for Cabinet approval tonight. If, within the next two weeks, we see the positive trend continuing, we ease additional restrictions. However, if there is an additional outbreak of the coronavirus, we will be compelled to backtrack.

I want to make it clear to you that this what all countries are doing and intend to do, without exception. Some already eased restrictions and were compelled to backtrack because the pandemic broke out again. This evening, the Director General of the Health Ministry and I spoke with Prof. Lipsitch from Harvard, and he told me: 'There is no other way. You open, try and if you need to, you close.' Of course, success depends, in large measure, on us, on all of us.

Our indicators for continuing the easing of restrictions are, first and foremost: The continued slowdown in morbidity and the stabilization of the trend regarding the severely ill, so that our health system will continue to function and will not crash. The key to success is to continue in the same manner with measured and careful decisions and – of course – the continuation of responsible behavior by the public.

Until a coronavirus vaccine is found, we are in a different reality. The entire world has changed. We simply need to live in a corona routine. Because of this, I am continuing to invest major efforts so that there will be the emergency and national unity government that the country needs so much. Nobody wants this more than I do because I have seen the coronavirus galloping toward us and I also know that it is not about to leave us anytime soon. In these conditions, I also know that the country needs a broad and stable government.

I am working day and night, literally around the clock, to fight the coronavirus and I saw, and see, an emergency and national unity government as a necessary part of achieving victory in this war. This is the reason why I agreed, in an unprecedented manner, along with Benny Gantz to request from the President a continued extension to his mandate, because I want unity. Everything else is spin.

I would now like to turn to our Muslim citizens. Ramadan is almost upon us. Just as the Jewish citizens of Israel acted during Passover, I now request that you have the Ramadan meals only with your nuclear family. I ask you to preserve the whole and thus take care of yourselves and your loved ones.

Citizens of Israel, next week will begin the days of national remembrance and revival. This time, the memorial events will be without attendance. This also applies to Independence Day events. This year, the festivities are expected to be at home, on balconies. But even under these conditions, we will proudly fly the national flag high. As Yehoram Gaon sings: 'You will not defeat me!' It is in this spirit that I tell you this evening that the coronavirus will not defeat us.

I say this out of deep faith and appreciation, out of appreciation for the medical teams, MDA, all the rescue services, the soldiers, the police, the teachers, our wonderful youth who are going to the homes of the elderly to bring them food packages and hope.

Citizens of Israel, our accomplishments measure up to every global standard, all the more so since we live in a very small and crowded country. Therefore, your achievement here is very important. There are none like you; you are amazing. Shoulder to shoulder, we will continue together in the struggle against the coronavirus. We will continue together and we will win."

Attached photo credit Silvia Golan

 

 

The fund will provide no-interest loans to organizations providing services essential to the continuing existence of Jewish communities which are now at-risk to survive the COVID-19 crisis.

 In response to the severe financial distress in Jewish communities across the world

 The Jewish Agency for Israel is launching the 'COVID-19 Loan Fund for Communities in Crisis,' together with its partners Keren Hayesod and Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). This comes in response to urgent calls from communities and organizations in countries such as Italy, Spain, South Africa, South American communities, and others to provide immediate cash flow. This fund will provide no-interest loans to organizations providing services essential to the continuing existence of Jewish communities which are now at-risk to survive the COVID-19 crisis.

 

 Jewish Agency Chairman of the Executive Isaac Herzog stated, “We are dealing with an unprecedented crisis that is impacting every aspect of life, including the Jewish world. The Jewish Agency, together with our partners at Keren Hayesod and JFNA, will work to ensure the continued existence of Jewish communities and their vital activities. The Jewish people are responsible for one another, now more than ever. And we welcome the support of all those that believe in Klal Yisrael.”

  

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted communal life throughout the Jewish world, bringing significant economic distress to many communities – including those that were previously financially stable. Many communities are now challenged to finance basic communal services. Educational activities have been discontinued, and essential welfare services are in danger of being closed.

 

 The Jewish Agency COVID-19 Loan Fund for Communities in Crisis will provide immediate working capital loans, with no interest, to communities in-danger outside North America.

 

 In its initial phase, the fund will total $10 million and will provide loans of up to $350,000 to each community or organization, enabling them to continue functioning during this challenging period. The loans will be provided for four years and will be repaid – with no interest – at the end of the first year, in four installments. Further information on applying for the loans can be found at: https://www.jewishagency.org/communities-loan-fund/

 

 The fund will be overseen by representatives from the three partner organizations, chaired by leaders from The Jewish Agency's Board of Governors, Beth Kieffer Leonard and Richard Pearlstone. They will be joined by an advisory committee comprised of financial experts from across Europe and South America, along with professionals from the various communities to help assess needs and design the appropriate response.

 

 World Chairman of Keren Hayesod-UIA Sam Grundwerg noted that, “Jewish communities all over the world are currently in real crisis, physically and emotionally, and in many places Jewish institutions are being devastated. Jews from all over the world have supported Israel from its establishment, and Israel – which bears a responsibility toward all Jews – is standing alongside these communities during these challenging times.”

 

 JFNA President and CEO Eric Fingerhut said, “We are fortunate to have a global platform, built over decades in partnership with Jewish Federations, The Jewish Agency and Keren Hayesod, that can quickly and effectively respond to this pandemic. This new fund will help ensure the continuity of our vital Jewish communal infrastructure and enable us to renew and rebuild when the time comes.”

 

 Several Italian Jewish communities have already requested assistance from the fund. They are in need of urgent financial support that will enable them to continue their regular activities and provide basic services to the communities over the course of the coming months. These communities have experienced serious hardships since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, with a sharp decline in its income due to the overall economic downturn. These are among the oldest Jewish communities in Europe with a rich history that has not only sustained vibrant Jewish life over the years, but also provided significant financial support to the establishment and support of the State of Israel.

 

 "This is the hour for solidarity, to support a dedicated, Zionist community that has supported us for years and now needs support, until it can return to its glory. It is our moral duty as a global Jewish collective to be there for them and for many other communities in need at this difficult time," said Jewish Agency CEO Amira Ahronoviz.

 

 The Jewish Agency’s global presence gives the organization unique insight into the needs of Jewish communities the world over, together with its significant experience responding to global crises in a systematic and impactful way.

After a 2012 school attack in Toulouse, France, The Jewish Agency responded by raising millions of dollars for a security fund that now supports the critical need for increased security at Jewish institutions throughout the world.

The Jewish Agency, together with partners, has established and managed a fund for victims of terror in Israel and those living on the Gaza border.

The Jewish Agency has also administered a loan fund for small Israeli businesses for over 20 years, including working with companies that have been devastated by their proximity to the line of fire during wartime.

Most recently, The Jewish Agency, with the assistance of JFNA and other partners, established an emergency loan fund for Israeli nonprofits facing unprecedented financial pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

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A test that will begin in the coming days will sample the voices of carriers and patients diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus, using a mobile application developed by Israeli start-up, Vocalis Health. These voice samples will be analyzed using an AI-based algorithm in order to identify the unique vocal ‘fingerprint’ of carriers and patients. This information will be useful in both early diagnosis and in the monitoring of patients to detect the deterioration or improvement in their health.  

 

The National Emergency Team led by the Director of the DDR&D, Brig. Gen. (Res.), Dr. Dani Gold, continues to identify and develop advanced technological solutions to help fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The team is currently conducting a trial with Israeli start-up Vocalis Health, founded by Mr. Tal Wendrow and Dr. Shady Hassan. The company is developing an artificial intelligence-based   platform that tracks and monitors health issues through voice sampling in order to detect virus symptoms related to the patient’s respiratory system.

 

This voice test is the result of collaboration between the Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), in the Ministry of Defense, Israeli start-up Vocalis Health from aMoon venture fund, Rabin and Sheba Medical Centers, Afeka Academic Center and additional research groups from the academic community and the IDF. 

 

 

Within the framework of the study, voice recordings will be collected from carriers, patients and the general public via a mobile application. These recordings will then undergo data analysis using neural networks. The purpose of this study is to develop a unique algorithm based on machine learning and sound characteristics in order to make initial medical assessments and in order to monitor the symptoms and conditions of patients.

The advantage of this monitoring system  is that it can be conducted from afar, in order to prevent the spread of the disease and overburdening of the national healthcare system. 

 

 

The research is conducted in collaboration with medical institutions in Israel and abroad, including the Sheba and Rabin Medical Centers, Beilinson and Sharon hospitals, the Directorate of R&D in the DDR&D, led by Brig. Gen. Yaniv Rotem in IMoD, academic institutions such as the Afeka College of Engineering, and the IDF. Preliminary results of the study are expected within 4-6 weeks.