Israel to Announce Sunday When Schools Will Reopen

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Students getting tested for COVID at a school in Binyamina in June.
Students getting tested for COVID at a school in Binyamina in June.Credit: Amir Levy

The coronavirus cabinet is convening on Sunday and expected to announce the start date of the new school year.

The cabinet is weighing whether to begin the year on September 1 as usual, postpone opening schools by a few days or until after the High Holiday. The hope is that parents over 30 will soon be able to receive a third dose of the vaccine that will reduce the spread of the disease among small children.

Last week, Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said that if current infection rates don't go down "there will be no choice but to delay the beginning of the school year."

However, he added that there is an advantage to starting the school year September 1, as currently intended, as it will allow "experimentation with all the methods we want to introduce, such as quick tests, quarantining versus not quarantining, and gaining trust in serological tests."

On Sunday, 11,912 students and 1,324 teachers were confirmed as carriers of COVID-19, according to Education Ministry figures. Two weeks ago, 7,142 students and 777 tested positive for the disease. Among students with COVID-19, some 36 percent are in seventh through twelfth grade, and about 60 percent are in elementary school.

A national antibody test among 3- to 12-year-olds is slated to kick off on Sunday in municipalities around the country, in a bid to measure the extent to which the coronavirus spread undetected among the country’s children over the past year and a half.

The assumption is that many children were infected over the last eighteen months but showed no symptoms, and therefore were never diagnosed.

Israel’s authorities hope that a significant proportion of children ages 3-12, who are not currently eligible for vaccination, will be found to have antibodies and will thus be eligible for a Green Pass, exempting them from mandatory isolation should they be exposed to someone COVID-positive, and from COVID-19 testing which is now mandatory in order to enter sites and attractions. They will be able to maintain their daily routine, including attending school, and will reduce the burden on the education and healthcare systems.

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