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Israel: Cabinet slashes public and private workforce to just 30% in bid to slow virus

The cabinet on Friday authorized further stringent workplace restrictions, tightening the limit to just 30% of workers in both public and private sectors in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The Finance Ministry, which announced the decision, said that industries deemed vital to the economy and public well-being would be exempt and noted that all businesses can keep operating as long as they manage to abide by the rules.

Israel Radio reported that the decisions were taken after a three-hour long “stormy” discussion. Recent days have seen increasing tensions between the desire to restrict activities and stop the disease and fears over the massive financial impact this is causing.

“These steps are designed to enable as many workers as possible to stay at home to reduce the spread of infection, but at the same time ensure continued critical functions of the economy,” the ministry said.

According to the decision the public sector will reduce its workforce to just 30%, with workers divided between offices and home. Exceptions will be made for the health, welfare and security sectors and others deemed “crucial.”

The private sector will face similar limits. Businesses can keep operating so long as they do not bring in more than 30% of their work force or have more than 10 people in a building at a time, the statement said. All work from home was allowed.

“To ensure that the public won’t face shortages in food, medicine financial services, garbage collection and energy supply, several bodies have been designated as critical services that are not bound by the limits,” the statement said urging them to nevertheless try and abide by Heath Ministry regulations as much as possible.

The new workplace restrictions come hours after new emergency regulations legalizing tough personal restrictions on movement came into effect Friday, after receiving cabinet approval overnight.

Ministers unanimously approved the measures, which made the limitations on movement announced earlier in the week legally binding and enforceable.

The restrictions dictate that Israelis should stay at home at all times unless for purposes of essential work, stocking up on food, medical issues or a limited number of permitted activities.

The number of confirmed sick in Israel stood at 705 on Friday morning. Ten were in serious condition and 18 in moderate condition.