A month-long coronavirus lockdown is expected to cost the Israeli economy an extra NIS 15-20 billion beyond the current financial toll of the country's response to the pandemic, senior Finance Ministry officials said on Thursday.
At a meeting hosted by Finance Minister Israel Katz, who opposes a lockdown, ministry officials discussed the ramifications of such a move with prominent figures from the business sector after Health Minister Yuli Edelstein called for a full lockdown across Israel during the Jewish High Holidays which begin next Friday with Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and end on October 9.
Katz presented an alternative plan for restraining the spread of the virus, in which the country would be divided into a number of areas based on infection rates. This program will make it possible to maintain continuity of trade, labor and the education system throughout the country while significantly reducing gatherings and thus lowering the chance of infection.
The attendants at the meeting backed Katz' plan, saying that another lockdown will be a death blow to many businesses still struggling to recover from Israel's first general closure.
Representatives of the Manufacturers Association of Israel said that the ministry lowballed the costs of the move in its projection and estimated the real cost may reach NIS 40 billion with 100,000 people losing their jobs.
The Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce estimated that losses will amount to around NIS 30 billion in the trading and service industries alone.