Bennett Wants to Keep Israel's Schools Open After Sukkot Despite COVID Spread

Israel's final decision on whether to expand a pilot program exempting students who were exposed to COVID from quarantine will be made after a two-week trial

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Parents and children wait in line for COVID tests
Parents and children wait in line for COVID testsCredit: Rami Shllush
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The first days of October are expected to be “complicated” for the school system with the coronavirus still spreading, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday, but he stressed that the government wants to keep schools open, so the economy can function and to prevent “raising a generation of zombies here.”

Speaking at a discussion with senior officials on resuming school after Sukkot despite the spread of the coronavirus, Bennett said, “It’s the easiest thing to close everything and impose decrees on the public. I want to keep to calculated risk management, not hysteria. Those who keeping wanting closures and restrictions are decreeing that we relive 2020 forever, or at least for the foreseeable future.”

He added, “Without parents working, the economy cannot function. Kids without school deteriorate in every parameter. We must allow continuous learning, otherwise we’ll be raising a generation of zombies here.”

Others present at the meeting were Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, Education Ministry director general Yigal Slovik, chairman of the Union of Local Authorities Haim Bibas, representatives of parent and teacher organizations and other officials.

Children wait for the results of their rapid COVID testsCredit: Emil Salman

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Bennett said that there would soon be a decision on whether to expand the “green plan” pilot program, which until now has been conducted in schools in the Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors. Under the pilot, a student who is infected is quarantined, but those who were exposed to him are required to take daily coronavirus tests for a week. Only those found to be infected are quarantined, while the rest can continue to come to school, instead of forcing them into quarantine as well. “We have to run with things for two weeks, and then we’ll decide,” Bennett said.

During the meeting Bibas asked the prime minister to define the work of the school coronavirus coordinators, whose job it will be to follow up on students who are ill with COVID-19, as preferred work, which brings with it certain benefits. Bennett said he would work on this.

Israel recorded 4,800 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, with more than two-thirds of them among unvaccinated people, according to the latest Health Ministry data released on Wednesday.

A boy holds a girl's hand as she gets the COVID vaccineCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Although only about 17 percent of eligible Israelis have not gotten vaccinated so far, they accounted for 67-69 percent of new cases this week, according to official figures for Monday and Tuesday. Over the past two weeks, unvaccinated people have accounted for 58 percent of all deaths and 66 percent of all serious cases in the country.

The number of those hospitalized in serious condition rose to 723 people, of whom 187 are on ventilators and 257 are in critical condition, the Health Ministry said. There are also 74 patients in serious condition at home and 31 in geriatric facilities. There were 74,898 active cases on Tuesday. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 7,582 people have died of the coronavirus.

Over 3 million Israelis have already received Pfizer’s COVID booster shot, while 6 million Israelis have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

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