Aid package announced as UTJ MK protests lockdown on COVID-19 red zones

A ministerial team presented an aid package for red zones that will remain in lockdown shortly, after MK Yaakov Asher canceled a committee meeting citing the lack of an aid package.

Israeli border policewomen chat with local residents at the entrance to Bnei Brak as Israel enforces a lockdown of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish town badly affected by coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Bnei Brak, Israel April 3, 2020 (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Israeli border policewomen chat with local residents at the entrance to Bnei Brak as Israel enforces a lockdown of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish town badly affected by coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Bnei Brak, Israel April 3, 2020
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
As Israel began the first stage of the exit from the national lockdown, the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee meeting on the new coronavirus regulations was canceled on Sunday due to the lack of a specialized aid package for red cities which will remain in lockdown.
Committee chairman UTJ MK Yaakov Asher sent a letter with a list of questions concerning the lockdown on red cities and demanding an aid package for red cities to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and the Finance, Health and Interior ministries.

Asher stated that he was presenting the questions "in the hopes that the answers to them will lead the government to change its decision, so that the lockdown not be placed as a punishment in the form of "'placing an unwise wall without taking action to reduce morbidity,' as I will present alongside the questions the basic economic demand that there cannot be 'a differential lockdown without a differential basket of economic steps.'"
The letter includes questions concerning what steps are being taken to reduce infection rates in red cities; whether suggestions by local authorities are being considered; whether infection rates are rising in those cities in a way that justifies a lockdown; and whether data was presented to the government concerning past attempts at differential lockdowns. Asher demanded transparency and further coordination between the government and local authorities.
The UTJ MK added a list of demands for an aid package for red cities, including a compensation program for their residents, job protection for those at risk of being fired, and eligibility for unemployment for those on unpaid leave for even less than 14 days. 
Asher also demanded assurance that proper medical care would be provided to residents, citing reports by them that clinics refused to treat them since they were red-city residents.
He also demanded that residents of red cities be able to receive coronavirus tests even without a doctor's referral. Health Ministry regulations state that Israeli citizens can only receive a test after receiving a referral from a doctor.
Asher called for the establishment of a system of people responsible for caring for the needs of those infected and in quarantine, as well as the expansion of the Military Personnel Program to at-risk populations who are not infected or in quarantine, in order to reduce their need to leave their homes.
Last week, Asher demanded that a specialized aid package be organized for red cities, including compensation for those who will remain unemployed, public transport between the cities, exit permits for those who are permitted to travel and coordination with local authorities concerning new regulations.
A ministerial team headed by Finance Minister Israel Katz presented a special aid package for red zones on Sunday, answering a number of Asher's demands, including unemployment payments and financial aid to local authorities.
Workers who are employed in workplaces that are allowed to open under the new regulations, but are forbidden from leaving their city due to the lockdown, will receive unemployment payments from the first day they enter unpaid vacation.
Direct financial aid will be provided to local authorities by the Interior Ministry, and residents will receive aid through the Military Personnel Program run by the Defense Ministry, IDF and Home Front Command.
A joint team of the director-general of the Finance and Interior ministries will monitor and organize required aid for cities handling the outbreak.
Those requiring assistance from the Tax Authority and national insurance (Bituah Leumi) in red zones will receive preference in their requests being handled.
The relevant ministries will continue to discuss protecting workers in red zones from being fired.