Israeli Proposal Would Keep Schools Open Even if COVID Spreads, Thanks to Rapid Tests

The proposal calls for reducing the need for quarantine through rapid COVID testing and a serological survey of all pupils

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
A child tested for COVID-19 in a school in northern Israel, in June.
A child tested for COVID-19 in a school in northern Israel, in June.Credit: Amir Levy
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

A team of officials from the Education, Health and Finance ministries presented a three-stage plan to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday that would allow the educational system to operate even if the coronavirus continues to spread.

The first stage calls for identifying all the schoolchildren who have recovered from the coronavirus through a broad serological survey. After the survey, pupils who have recovered from the virus will be exempt from quarantine even if they’ve been exposed to someone infected.

In the second phase, the extent of infections in the schools will be monitored and outbreaks identified. As part of this phase, a sampling of rapid COVID tests will be performed once or twice a week for students in affected areas. The local authorities will be responsible for conducting these tests.

The third step in the outline calls for schools to work locally to reduce the need for quarantine among students who have been exposed to confirmed cases. All classmates exposed to an infected child will undergo a rapid screening. Only classes with a high rate of infection will be sent home to quarantine.

To make this work, the state will first have to conduct a serological survey of all pupils, since many children are assumed to have been infected and recovered without even being aware they’d been sick. These tests will be conducted by the HMOs and the Home Front Command.

Pupils who become infected will have to quarantine as per Health Ministry guidelines and the school will be immediately notified. There will then be a local epidemiological investigation and those children and teachers who came in contact with the infected child will be given a fast coronavirus test.

Those who test negative and who have recovered or were vaccinated can continue their routines, while the rest will then have to take fast antigen tests daily for a week. If the antigen test is positive, the child will be sent for a PCR coronavirus test. If the PCR test is positive, he will be sent home to quarantine. If not, the child can continue to come to school.

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