Israel's Netanyahu pledges financial aid for 'all citizens'


Jerusalem (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Wednesday a financial aid plan for "all citizens" aimed at rebooting the economy, hard hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Families with children will receive one-off payments of between 2,000 and 3,000 shekels ($580-875), while "all other citizens over the age of 18 will receive 750 shekels," Netanyahu pledged at a press conference.

"This money will put the economy back on track faster," he added, calling for people to purchase "local products".

The financial support, part of a general aid package of 90 billion shekels announced last week, must still be approved by the government, Netanyahu said.

On Sunday, the Israeli government approved measures to provide financial assistance to the self-employed, whose livelihoods have been devastated by the novel coronavirus.

As part of efforts to combat the virus' spread, Israeli authorities in mid-March imposed strict lockdown measures, during which only professionals working in occupations deemed essential were allowed to work and public gatherings were prohibited.

Israel's unemployment rate jumped from 3.4 percent in February to 27 percent in April, before falling slightly in May to 23.5 percent.

The Jewish state had won praise for its early response to the COVID-19 outbreak, but the government has come under criticism amid a resurgence in cases after lockdown measures were lifted.

The country of some nine million people has recorded more than 43,668 coronavirus cases, including 375 deaths as of Wednesday.

The government lifted some restrictions at the end of May, but announced new ones last week, including closing bars, nightclubs and gyms.