Israel Set to Start Easing Restrictions, With Lasting Job Losses

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Israel will soon begin to ease restrictions on its economy enacted to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top economic adviser told Israel Radio on Sunday.

The relaxation will be gradual and, depending on its duration, the government could expand the 80 billion-shekel ($22.4 billion) fiscal aid package it approved last month to help businesses and employees contend with the fallout from the virus, Avi Simhon said.

The country has nearly 11,000 confirmed cases and 103 deaths. On Sunday, the cabinet voted to place all travelers from abroad into government-run quarantine facilities, the latest in a series of measures that have increasingly limited access to the country and movement within it since late January.

In a separate interview, Finance Ministry Budget Director Shaul Meridor told Israel Radio that he hopes the easing will begin immediately after this week’s Passover holiday, with high-tech companies and preschools being among the first to reopen.

The country’s unemployment rate has skyrocketed from below 4% to above 25% since early March, with 1 million workers now out of jobs. Meridor predicted that as many as 400,000 could remain unemployed by the end of the year even if businesses start operating again within a month and a half.

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