COVID-19 test manufacturer makes ultra-Orthodox employees work separately

Nova Tel, who manufactures the swabs necessary for performing tests to detect COVID-19, placed all of its ultra-Orthodox employees on temporary unpaid leave before protests prompted their rehiring.

A Jewish ultra-Orthodox man looks onto a local billboard with instructions related to the coronavirus at a street in a Jewish Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem, March 27, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
A Jewish ultra-Orthodox man looks onto a local billboard with instructions related to the coronavirus at a street in a Jewish Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem, March 27, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Nova Med, an Israeli company responsible for manufacturing the swabs necessary for performing tests to detect COVID-19, placed all of its ultra-Orthodox employees on temporary unpaid leave on Sunday, while retaining the rest of its staff, Walla!
The employees were quick to protest the decision, claiming it is discriminatory, threatening to turn to the media, the company re-hired them but decided that they will be kept separate from the rest of the staff, working the evening shift, as a precautionary measure.
Two weeks ago, the Health Ministry approved for Nova Med to manufacture around 5,000 swabs per day, to be used for coronavirus testing.
Though the Jerusalem-based company is classified as an essential business, the company was able to afford losing its Haredi employees, as only 4-6 of the 70 employees qualify as such.
The decision was made by Nova Med CEO Dr. Emil Katz following reports of very high infection rates among ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, namely in the cities of Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, the latter of which has been locked down completely since Friday. 
Fending off accusations of discrimination, Katz told Walla that "If I heard that it was a different population that did not obey the Health Ministry's instructions, I would have treated them the same. That is my judgment."

However, Katz continued to criticize the lack of social distancing in the Haredi community, saying that "for us, in most non-ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, we hear about the new guidelines and accept what the state asks, while in Bnei Brak, in Mea Shearim and in a million other neighborhoods - they are anti-state."

Though a statement released by Katz made it clear that only two employees had violated Health Ministry regulations, the rest of the Haredi staff were initially placed on unpaid leave as a precaution.
"After learning that two employees had violated the Ministry of Health's instructions, I decided to exercise caution so as not to jeopardize employees," Katz said.

"We are currently investigating whether there are other employees who acted contrary to the guidelines, in order to ensure workers' peace and essential work," he added.
Katz told Walla News that the company is "following what is happening with the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, we need to see what happens. There are those who are supposed to be under lockdown right now." 
"I have a responsibility to the employees, and people who violate the Ministry of Health guidelines - I will do what I think is right with them," he added.