Coronavirus in Israel – Getting Your Business Seen as an Essential Service (Update 25.9.20)

Barnea Jaffa Lande & Co.
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Update 25.9.20 – In accordance with the regulation approved today and until October 10th (subject to any extension) only business listed in the essential businesses list are allowed to continue and operate in the place of business. In addition activities essential for the remote operation of the business may be performed at the place of business.

Update 22.9.20 – The Israeli government-imposed lockdown that took effect on September 18, 2020, still allows private sector businesses that do not accept customers in-person to continue working under the “purple tag” laws.

Thus, as of now, even businesses not defined as “essential” may continue to operate, if compliant with the “purple tag” provisions.  

Israeli ministers are now contemplating further restrictions to stop the spread of the virus. The coronavirus cabinet has assembled to discuss reducing activity in the private sector. Please keep up to date with the guidelines in case of additional restrictions.

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To enable the continued operation of essential services to the Israeli economy during an emergency, certain businesses can be declared as essential. Such a declaration allows for the continuation of these businesses’ activities. These provisions will apply from the time a civil emergency is announced or a dangerous contagious disease is declared.

Alongside the permanent declaration of certain businesses as essential and various procedures designed to keep them fit for a state of emergency, companies can also promote a specific procedure designed to address the individual needs of the economy.

Thus, services that were not perceived as essential in the past may be essential now as part of dealing with the coronavirus epidemic (courier companies, online trading companies, and more).

In this respect, special coronavirus-related emergency regulations were promulgated in Israel on March 21, 2020, listing specific economic activities considered as essential that are allowed to operate with less limitations.

This is a self-assessment regime that requires the business to consider its activity in light of the regulations and determine whether it can be recognized as essential under the regulations. This transfers the responsibility and the potential liability to the private sector. Therefore, we recommend that businesses carefully consider whether they are eligible for recognition as essential businesses based on the language of the regulations and the underlying purposes.

The significance of such a definition for a business is that it may continue to operate, even when there is an order to discontinue non-essential services. This will enable you to require your employees to continue their ongoing work as well as to contribute to ensuring the logistical supply chain of the business.

The law considers an “essential business” as one who operates for the protection of the state or public safety, who operates to provide essential supplies or services, and whose activity is essential to fulfill the supply or services necessary for the public or export operations.

Alongside essential services, the law also defines existing services, including, inter alia, food suppliers, health, sanitation, communications, IT and cyber security, and certain courier services as essential.

These are broad definitions that during this novel epidemic require examination and redefinition of what is an essential service at a time when people are required to stay in their homes and reduce contact with others.

The regulations also require that even an essential business implement various procedures designed to ensure employee and public health, including practicing distancing between persons and measuring the temperatures of employees prior to their entry into the workplace.

We also note that if the situation continues, the list of businesses recognized as essential may expand and be updated from time to time, and the conditions for continued operation may also change.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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