More than a million Israelis are unemployed due to Covid-19 lockdown
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More than a million Israelis are unemployed due to Covid-19 lockdown

Staggering 844,000 benefit claims registered in March alone as jobless rate skyrockets to almost 25 percent from just 3.4 percent a month earlier

Workers wearing protective suits disinfect a bus as a preventive measure amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus, in Tel Aviv - as public transport is shut down. Photo by: Tomer Neuberg-JINIPIX
Workers wearing protective suits disinfect a bus as a preventive measure amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus, in Tel Aviv - as public transport is shut down. Photo by: Tomer Neuberg-JINIPIX

Almost a quarter of working-age Israelis are now jobless after the latest government figures showed the shocking effects of the lockdown there, with more than a million Israelis now on the dole.

A staggering 844,000 unemployment benefit claims were registered in March alone, sending the jobless rates skyrocketing to 24.4 percent in just three weeks, compared to only 3.4 percent a month before.

Israel was one of the first countries to impose stringent lockdown conditions at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and the new figures show the extent of the economic damage caused.

The Israeli government has said it will help employees who had been made permanently unemployed or, as in most cases, have been placed on unpaid leave, by covering up to 75 percent of their wages.

While discussions continue around a possible federal grant for the self-employed, tens of thousands who work for themselves have had little by way of reassurance.

Employment Ministry officials revealed this week that almost half of the new unemployment benefits claimants were 35 years of age or younger, while 57 percent were women, as the country struggled to cope with the public health emergency.

Israeli hospitals, like elsewhere, have seen a steady increase in cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, which affects the lungs.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu entered quarantine but tested negative, while Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has now tested positive. Yossi Cohen, who heads the Mossad spy agency, has also now entered self-isolation.

As of Thursday morning 31 Israelis had died and more than 6,200 had been infected. Of these, 107 are in a critical condition, with 83 breathing only through the help of ventilators.

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