Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Monday, 16 March 2020), at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, at the joint statements with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon following a consultation on the Coronavirus, made the following remarks:
"Our struggle against the Coronavirus is continuing all the time. In many countries, there has been a sharp increase in the number of patients and in the number of deaths. Our heart is with Italy and Spain, with the Jewish communities there and with whoever has been adversely affected by the virus. With us in Israel there has been a moderate increase in morbidity, and we are doing everything so that it remains under control. The State of Israel is continuing to be ahead of the vast majority of countries in taking determined and responsible steps and in cooperation with you, citizens of Israel.
This evening, I am announcing a series of additional steps that we are taking in a rational, considered and responsible manner in order to slow the spread of the Coronavirus in Israel. The first step: Tonight, the Cabinet will approve emergency regulations that will enable the use of digital means in the war on Corona. These means will greatly assist us in locating patients and thereby stop the spread of the virus. The Cabinet discussed this yesterday for six hours. I, and all the ministers, sought to ensure that there would be strict oversight of these means in order to ensure that they would not be abused. The Attorney General acceded to our request and this evening we will approve the use of digital tools for a limited period of 30 days. Israel is a democracy. We must preserve the balance between individual rights and general needs, and we are doing so.
Beyond the digital means, I am announcing this evening three additional economic steps that will be in force until the end of Passover. I say in advance before you think that there is a continuation, we are not locking people in their homes, i.e. I am not declaring a general closure; I very much hope that we will not come to that. We will operate a localized closure in places where there has been an outbreak of the disease in order to maintain public health.
I am now declaring three things:
1. The public sector will transition to an emergency footing.
2. The private sector will transition to a reduced footing.
3. Essential services will remain on a full footing.
First, we are moving the public sector to work on an emergency footing. This means reduced work. Fewer employees will go to work at government ministries on this footing. It is impossible to estimate how many this will be in each ministry. It varies; it could be up to 80%. But every director general of a government ministry will inform employees over the next 24 hours who among them will go to work, who will work at home and who will go on leave. This takes effect Wednesday morning. Employees who go on leave will go on early Passover vacation at the expense of their annual vacation days. This directive also includes local authorities.
Second, we are moving the private sector to a reduced footing. Businesses and companies will be required to reduce the number of employees at workplaces by 70%. This evening I will submit this decision to the Cabinet. This reduction at work could be done in shifts, working from home or other ways. I say in advance that there will be certain adaptations in specific industries, and they will be determined in advance jointly by personnel from the Health and Finance ministries. This approach of ours does not apply to businesses with fewer than ten employees, which can operate as usual as long as they uphold the two-meter separation rule.
I remind you of this fundamental rule. More than ten people should not congregate in one room. Keep a distance of two meters between people. This is the key to everything. This is true everywhere. Maintain this separation. It is also true in lines. I see lines at supermarkets, for take-away, this is completely fine, but maintain this two-meter rule. Extend an arm. Meet the arm of another person but do not touch it. This is how you know that this is two meters. I know that this period is not easy. Many people will be at home and not at work. Many people are concerned or worried that they will not have enough money. We are listening to you. Therefore, this evening we are putting an economic safety net at the disposal of every Israeli citizen. The Finance Minister will present this next.
We are leaving essential services on a full footing. These services include supermarkets and grocery stores. I am deliberately saying this because there is no problem with food, for Passover as well. There is no reason to run to the supermarkets and empty the shelves. There is no reason. There is enough food in Israel and there will continue to be. The essential services also include the health system, pharmacies, the security services, the police, security guards, banking, ATMs, social service institutions and other essential serves as detailed on the Finance Ministry website.
Here is a summary of what I said: The public sector is contracting, the private sector is contracting, and essential services are continuing as usual. With regard to public transportation, at this stage public transportation is continuing – trains as well as buses. But there are changes and I ask you to monitor these changes and updates on the Ministry of Transportation website.
We are also reinforcing up our first-line medical teams, including laboratories. Last night I spoke to Prof. Ella Mendelssohn at our Ministry of Health central laboratory for infectious diseases, whose deputy was infected. I would like to wish her, and to all the patients on the medical teams as well as to all the citizens of Israel, a full recovery. I am sure everything is being done to bring this about.
These days I can tell you, citizens of Israel, we cannot hug nor can we shake hands, but we love each other and we care for each other. I know our people and I know the immense powers that are hidden within us. I was very excited, deep in my heart, to hear of the volunteers bringing food baskets and groceries to peoples' doors, to see reduced weddings with people singing beautifully from balconies to accompany the bride and groom, and I was excited to see teenage boys and girls volunteering to be babysitters for children whom they don't necessarily know. This is mutual support at its best. The powerful partnership between government and citizens and our profound brotherhood are a great source of strength and spirit in the fight against the Corona epidemic. Together we will stand, and together with G-d's help, we will win this fight, even if it takes time. "