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Israel expands economic safety net to deal with upcoming full nationwide lockdown

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-09-18 11:29

People wearing masks cross a street as Israeli authorities brought back some coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions after the number of new cases jumped in what officials fear could herald a "second wave" of infections, in Elad, Israel, June 24, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

JERUSALEM - Israel expanded its COVID-19 national economic safety net program ahead of the full nationwide closure that will begin on Friday, the Prime Minister's Office and Finance Ministry said in a joint statement on Thursday night.

The new expansion plan, decided by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz, is intended to provide a dedicated response to the businesses affected by the closure, which will last for at least three weeks.

The new plan also includes measures that will help reduce the damage to the Israeli labor market.

As part of the plan, more businesses will be entitled for governmental support, state-guaranteed loans, and reduced municipal taxes.

Also, some employers will receive employee retention grants, in the amount of 5,000 new shekels (about $1,460) for each employee they kept, to encourage employment and prevent mass layoffs.

In addition, employees who are put on unpaid leaves by their employers will receive increased unemployment benefits.

The full lockdown in Israel, imposed due to rapid rise in COVID-19 infections, will begin on Friday at 2 pm (1100 GMT).

It includes a ban on moving more than 500 meters away from home, as well as the closure of most shops and all places of culture, entertainment, leisure and tourism.

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