May 9, 2021

Netanyahu forms special ministerial center to monitor coronavirus problem

Netanyahu convenes special meeting on coronavirus
Netanyahu convenes special meeting on coronavirus

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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened a special meeting Sunday at the Health Ministry emergency situation room, to discuss the spread of the coronavirus.

The meeting included Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), government ministers, ministry director generals, the head of the National Security Council (NSC) and other senior officials. The assessment was in continuation of previous discussions, ongoing updates and recent developments.

The prime minister ordered the formation of a ministerial team to monitor and combat the spread of the coronavirus, and expanded restrictions on tourists entering Israel, adding Australia and Italy to the list of countries affected.

We are continuing preparations

“We are continuing preparations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Israel. We are holding daily assessments. Today, I will appoint a ministerial team to convene on a daily basis in order to deal with this major challenge,” said Netanyahu.

“We are constantly evaluating and adjusting our policy, and adapting it to developing circumstances. First, we are becoming stricter vis-à-vis entry into Israel from additional countries. Today, we are adding Australia and Italy and will add other countries as may be necessary. I have said that over-preparation is preferable to under-preparation. Until now, Israel has been stricter than any other country and we will continue to do whatever is necessary to prevent the spread of the virus in Israel.”

“We have also issued guidelines to Israelis who are returning to the country and we demand that these guidelines, which we are releasing to the public, be strictly adhered to. Here as well, we demand that the public show maximum responsibility. Everyone must follow the instructions given by the Health Ministry.”

Workers inside a building at Tel HaShomer Hospital
Workers inside a building at Tel HaShomer Hospital which was converted to receive the Israelis who were under quarantine on the cruise ship Diamond Princess in Japan due to the spread of the coronavirus, and arriving in Israel tonight, February 20, 2020. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90

Netanyahu also ordered

Netanyahu also ordered the opening of a national situation room to coordinate on the situation and formulate policy on all developing issues pursuant to the coronavirus. A team of ministry director generals, chaired by the head of the NSC, will meet on a daily basis to assess the situation and implement the policy.”

“It was decided to quickly locate all persons suspected of having been in contact with those carrying the virus and voluntarily isolate them or return them to their countries. It was decided to gradually reduce flights from places with the coronavirus.”

The first known case of coronavirus in Israel was reported last Friday, when one of the 11 Israeli passengers who returned from the Diamond Princess ship, currently under quarantine at Yokohama Port in Japan, tested positive for the disease.

The passenger was placed in isolation at a quarantine facility at Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, separated from the other ten passengers, who are also under quarantine

Since then, hundreds of Israelis have been placed under quarantine, and over 100 South Korean tourists barred from entering Israel, after nine South Korean tourists tested positive for coronavirus upon their return to South Korea, following a tour of Israel.

Gov’t has spent NIS 100m to keep virus out of Israel

The Ministry of Health has invested over NIS 100 million to date in its efforts and deployment to prevent the coronavirus from spreading to Israel, according to information obtained by “Globes.” The amount spent on preparation came from the monthly budget allotment given to the Ministry of Health by Accountant General Rony Hizkiyahu. There has been no need so far for a budget allocation at the expense of other ministries.

The state has been managed since January according to a continuation budget, with the Accountant General allocating a NIS 40 billion monthly budget: one twelfth of the 2019 state budget.

Prices on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange were down sharply as a result of growing concern about an outbreak of coronavirus in Israel and its potential effect on the economy. Economists and analysts said that the negative effects on the Israeli economy were unavoidable, even under the optimistic assumption that the disease would not reach Israel. The Bank of Israel is scheduled tomorrow to announce the interest rate for the next six weeks.

Bank Hapoalim (TASE: POLI) economists said that the coronavirus had increased the likelihood that the Bank of Israel would cut the interest rate in one of its upcoming decisions. According to these economists, “The probability of an interest rate cut in the US and Asian countries has increased, and as time passes, it is likely that we will see negative figures and reduced growth forecasts. For the Bank of Israel Monetary Committee, each of these factors could be enough reason to cut the interest rate.”

In their economic

In their economic review published today, Bank Hapoalim’s economists state that growth in Israel is likely to be affected even if the coronavirus does not reach Israel. The number of tourists visiting Israel is likely to drop, and some exports of goods to China and the neighboring countries are at risk if production in East Asia does not get back on track soon.

Beyond that, the bank’s economists say that the coronavirus is likely to affect the shekel exchange rate if global stock prices fall substantially. They expect that in such an event, the pension savings companies will reduce their currency hedging, which they say will have an effect equal to the purchase of over $5 billion in foreign currency. “This does not guarantee shekel depreciation, but it will facilitate a lull in the Bank of Israel’s foreign currency purchases,” Bank Hapoalim writes.


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Economist Dr. Roby Nathanson predicts that an outbreak of the coronavirus is likely to cause shortages and high prices for products produced in China, if paralysis in manufacturing of goods persists in China and alternative suppliers are not found. He also expects a negative impact on incoming tourism from China, after 49% growth in tourism from China to Israel in 2019.

Further damage will result from barring the entry of passengers from Thailand and South Korea, from which more tourists visit Israel than from China. Nathanson predicts that farmers and construction companies in Israel will ask for larger quotas for importing foreign workers from countries not affected by the coronavirus to replace foreign workers from China and Thailand.

Published by Globes, Israel business news – – on February

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