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  • Writer's pictureViva Sarah Press

Corona tax is here

Corona tax has entered the Israeli lexicon.

What is it? It is a fee that establishments charge to do what they should be doing anyway: cleaning their premises properly.

It is named for the coronavirus – which, in Israel, is referred to without the “virus” bit and just called ‘corona.’

The tax is not ubiquitous. It depends. On the establishment.

I found it recently when I went to a body-and-soul wellness center for a foot massage and paid with a gift certificate.

“There’s an additional 10-shekel charge,” the clerk said.

“For what?” I queried.

“Corona cleaning,” she said. “We clean the room after every client. We change the towels on the bed.”

My thought: Aaaand, you weren’t doing this before?!

Cleaning a massage room between clients isn’t part of running this business?

“It is a Corona tax,” said the clerk. “We have to clean extra.”

Or, in fact, just clean.

As I handed over the sudden fee, I was reminded of the “terrorism tax” of the second intifada.

In the early 2000s, this “terrorism tax” was charged by some cafes and restaurants who had hired security guards to keep their establishments as safe as possible from suicide bombers.

Some of the eateries paid the guards to keep their place safe, others charged the very clients they were hoping to attract to their establishment to pay the guards’ salaries.

The Corona tax seems to follow this line of thinking.

Some places will clean – and perhaps do extra cleaning – to keep in line with the new hygienic regulations in order to keep their businesses running and open. Others, it seems, feel the very clients they hope to attract to use their services should foot the bill.

If this extra hygiene meant investing in Covid-19 infrastructure – such as buying masks or gloves to give out to clients, putting up plexiglass dividers or similar, perhaps it would make sense. If Covid-19-related costs were detrimental to a business – a clearly stated surcharge or a small price hike could cover the outlay. Transparency about COVID-19-related charges could make it easier to accept them.

But that was not the case here.

I had visited this business a day prior to check that the certificate I was given did indeed cover all costs. There was no mention of this Corona tax.

I do not believe it an irrational idea that wellness salons should clean and change towels between clients – regardless of the novel coronavirus.

“No one told you about it yesterday?” the clerk asked.

“No. And I came to double check that the certificate covered all costs,” I said.

“Well, there’s a Corona tax and the gift certificate doesn’t cover it,” she said.

Is this Corona tax legal? Who knows.

I have found that at the majority of places that have stayed open or opened after lockdowns, according to Covid-19 rules, service has actually ramped up.

After all, customers should be able to feel safe without an extra charge. Or, at least have it laid out in front of them as to why an extra charge is needed.

So, it really was a shock – even, chutzpah – to be charged a surprise Corona tax.

“Because we need to clean” doesn’t cut it.

Viva Sarah Press writes about life's adventures.

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