Several schools in the Jerusalem area were shut on Monday, as more staff and students tested positive for the coronavirus over the past few days. The majority of them – more than 130 people – came from a single school, Gymnasia Rehavia.
On Monday evening, the Health Ministry released updated figures showing 67 new cases, which add up to 98 over the last 24 hours. A total of 5,636 of tests were done on Monday.
Two people were diagnosed in the city's Paula Ben-Gurion School, and one person in each of three other schools in the city – the Arts school, the Zalman Aranne School and the Masorti School.
The Education Ministry said that as of Monday morning, more than 4,500 students and 734 staff members across the country were placed in quarantine.
Education Minister Yoav Gallant issued on Monday an order to shut down any school with a confirmed coronavirus case.
"If the school has a routine in separate buildings or compounds, partial opening will be considered," Galant said.
He did not elaborate further, nor did he go into detail on how long the school will be closed for, whether other educational institutions will also close, and whether the procedure will apply retroactively to schools where one or more cases have already been discovered.
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A previous Health Ministry order sent to Education Ministry and health officials across the country on Sunday stipulates that any educational institution with more than three confirmed cases should be shut down.
It sets criteria for partial or full closures, two weeks after classes resumed in all schools. According to the order, in cases where less than three cases have been confirmed, or if all patients belong to the same class, schools may opt for a partial closure only.
278 students and 35 staff members at the Ofek School in Givat Ze'ev, north of Jerusalem, were placed in quarantine and the school shut, after a teacher tested positive for the coronavirus.
A student in the northern city of Hadera was also diagnosed with COVID-19. As a result, the Interdisciplinary School announced its 2,200 students would return to remote learning in the coming days.
Also on Monday, dozens of students in several schools in Be'er Sheva, in Israel's south, were placed in quarantine until 9 June, following suspected cases among students and staff.
Just north of Be'er Sheva, in the Bedouin city of Rahat, 750 students and staff of the A-Noor high school were sent home after a teacher also tested positive.
The virus outbreak in Jerusalem led to widespread absences from the city’s public schools on Sunday. The municipality announced that schools would open as usual, but several parents’ associations decided that students should not attend.
A few high schools, including Leyada, the Experimental High School and Boyar, didn’t hold classes at all. Many elementary schools with students who have older siblings at the Gymnasia were also closed, either fully or partially.
The Arab community in Israel has also seen a rise in the number of diagnosed coronavirus patients. According to figures released by the Arab Emergency Committee on Sunday, which are based on Health Ministry data, incidence of the illness rose last week by 2 percent, or 21 new cases, compared to a rise of just 0.5 percent the previous week.
Ahmed Alsheikh, a member of the Emergency Committee, said the number of Arabs seeking to be tested for coronavirus has fallen, with only 1,612 being tested last week.
“It’s impossible to act as if the coronavirus is behind us,” he said. “The danger still exists. It depends in part on the way the public behaves, including the Arab public.”
According to the committee’s data, 1,085 Arabs have been diagnosed with the coronavirus so far, though this figure excludes both residents of mixed Jewish-Arab cities and residents of East Jerusalem. Of them, 925 have already recovered and none are in serious condition or on a ventilator.
Jack Khoury and Bar Peleg contributed to this report.