ime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the government will allocate NIS 10 billion ($2.8 billion) to help combat the economic consequences caused by the growing coronavirus threat in Israel.
"The coronavirus has an impact on the economy of the entire world, us included," said Netanyahu.
"The state of the Israeli economy is better than most world economies. The financial system is strong, and unemployment is low. These are big advantages in entering this crisis, our goal is to keep the economy going with an initial help package of NIS 10 billion."
Netanyahu said that while the first priority is to equip hospitals and reinforce the healthcare system, "there will be a separate help package provided to airlines beyond the NIS 10 billion."
He called the airline industry "Israel's lifeline."
The aid package includes NIS 1 billion to bolster the healthcare system, and additional NIS 1 billion for "dedicated needs" (such as special needs care).
Another NIS 8 billion will be devoted to business loans through a "National small and medium business loan fund," although the terms for the loans have yet to be revealed.
"What we are seeing is a global event," said Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who took the podium in Jerusalem after Netanyahu.
"The high financial growth is a tremendous boon for us. We in the ministry hold regular meetings with the Bank of Israel, and are keeping a close eye on events," he said.
"We along with the entire economy are going through a difficult time, but still we are in complete control and intend to reinforce the healthcare system as much as we can."
Governor of the Bank of Israel Amir Yaron said: "The Bank of Israel will do everything in its power to protect the economy from the ravages of coronavirus. Our end goal is to support the continued activity of Israel's economy while creating a safety net to ensure it will overcome this difficult time."
He added: "The prime minister, finance minister and I are all working in full cooperation in order to promote and ensure both the growth and support of the economy."
Yaron said that at this stage, airlines will not be offered handouts only loans.
"All airlines are in constant communication with us; we will provide them with aid to ensure they withstand this crisis. We are not talking about grants and compensation, we are talking about providing them with a stable cash flow in order to help them through the crisis."
Earlier Wednesday, El Al Airlines announced it will place some 4,000 of its employees- around 80% of its entire workforce - on unpaid leave from next week.
Israel's flag carrier has seen a massive decrease in revenue amid the coronavirus outbreak.
In a filing to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, El Al said the extension of self-quarantine requirements to all individuals arriving in Israel was expected to have a "fundamentally adverse effect" on the company's operations.
The Issta Lines tourism company has announced the closure of all 42 of its branches in Israel by April 15, following the company's "drop-in operations to zero," along with unpaid leave for most of the company’s 530 employees.
Yossi Fatal, the chairman of the "Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association," which represents those working in the tourism industry, said in response that he believes "giving financial priority to the airline industry is a mistake."
"Without us to bring tourists into Israel, the plan to support the aviation industry is fundamentally incomplete," said Fatal. "We should be among the first to receive aid, without us there will be no tourists in hotels nor on the planes."
Fatal said that the inbound tourism industry was the sixth largest in the country, and constitutes 4% of Israel's GDP.
"We are talking about vital infrastructure that supplies jobs for thousands of people, mostly in the periphery," said Fatal.
"We demand that the prime minister allocates a special budget to support the inbound tourism industry, or he is risking a loss of 3.5 million tourists this year due to the coronavirus."