Israel Coronavirus Update

Ambulance with masked paramedics

The coronavirus continues to spread through Israel, but the rate seems to be slowing. Cautiously optimistic, the government has begun relaxing restrictions, raising the distance people may travel from their homes from 100 meters to 500 meters, re-opening limited special education programming, and allowing outdoor prayers in groups of up to 19.

Israelis are still required to wear masks when outdoors, with fines of 200 NIS being enforced strictly by police, and intra-city public transit remains closed. Additionally, despite the hopeful tone from government officials, businesses in Israel are continuing to suffer.

“Look at my wallet, it’s empty,” Yuval Carmi of Ashdod told Channel 13, pulling out his wallet. “I don’t have a shekel in my pocket.”

Yuval, who has become the face of coronavirus' economic impact in Israel, has been financially devastated by the near total closure of the economy. “I’m embarrassed, from my children, to tell them I have nothing I can buy for you. I have nothing to give them. I have nothing to give them to eat." Yuval, who owns a falafel store, has been forced to turn to delivery to try to earn money.

“It’s falafel,” he wept. “Falafel has to be eaten hot and fresh.”

Although Israel recently passed an 80 billion NIS stimulus package, it was a far cry from the enormous government intervention seen in the US. Each family received 500 NIS per child over the Passover holiday to help get them through, but with many no longer receiving any income, it is uncertain that such small sums are really going to have a large effect.

Additionally, much of the aid offered is in the form of state-backed loans. While many of the loans from the US stimulus are planned to be forgiven, essentially acting as a grant, the Israelis get no such benefit. Without a guaranteed end date to the crisis, many businesses are wary of using these emergency loans, only to default on the payments.

Not all bad news

Netanyahu and Gantz broke their political deadlock yesterday, finally inking a unity government. After three failed elections, a formed government should be able to provide more of the support the country badly needs.

Additionally, the growth curve of the virus has flattened, with several days of decreased growth in a row. On the health side, it appears the country is performing better than most, and while everyone worldwide is suffering from the economic impacts, this effective management of the health crisis could translate into better economic outcomes long-term.