Israeli government unveils intricate return to school amid COVID-19 plan

August 9, 2021 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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Minister of Education Yifat Shasha-Bitton and Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz submitted to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett who approved the outline formulated for Israel’s return to school amid the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the spiking number of infections in Israel.

Israeli students on their first day of the new school year in the shadow of COVID-19. Or Yehuda, Sep 1, 2020. Photo by Eitan Elhadez-Barak/TPS

The outline includes serological tests for children, rapid tests, a “Green Class” model, wearing masks in class and social distance.

The plan calls for blanket serological tests to detect students who have been infected and recovered, exempting them from the need to quarantine if exposed to an active case.

The tests will first be conducted in the ultra-Orthodox society, in which the school year opened on Monday, and will gradually expand to about 1.6 million students.

Rapid tests are meant to detect Corona cases before the start of the school year. The tests will be provided to the parents and will be performed by them. The tests will be performed on 1.9 million students about 48 hours before the start of the school year.

This idea has been criticized as not applicable as the parents will refuse to do the tests, and the tests themselves have been rejected as inaccurate.

The “Green Class” model will operate in a school where a verified patient has been discovered. The verified patient will go into quarantine while the rest will undergo corona tests. Students who test negative will return to school and be examined every day for seven days. Students and teaching staff who do not want to be tested – will enter quarantine.

The model will begin as a pilot in schools in the ultra-Orthodox society and will expand in September to the schools in the Arab society, who are expected to study throughout the month, unaffected by the Jewish High Holidays and the subsequent vacations.

Tests will be performed in schools once a week in orange and red localities with high infection rates.

Educators and principles rejected the plan as a confusing mess that does not address crucial issues and puts both the teachers and their students in harm’s way.

They further said they would refuse to act as health monitors or enforcers and would focus on their job as educators.

In the meantime, the number of daily cases and patients in severe condition continued to rise. The Health Ministry updated Monday that it recorded 3,372 in the past 24 hours.

Of some 104,971 tests done on Sunday, 3.87% of the tests returned positive, the highest percentage recorded since March.

The number of Corona patients hospitalized in severe condition rose to 360, of them 57 are on life support.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Israel, 6,542 Corona patients have died, 67 of them since the beginning of August.

A list of new restrictions came into effect on Sunday, in an attempt to stem the skyrocketing new daily COVID-19 cases and in a last-ditch attempt to prevent a countrywide lockdown, Israel’s fourth.

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