Israel to send all students back to school, even as coronavirus cases rise

Cabinet decides all public school classes will resume by December 12, but in the past day country records highest number of new infections in a month.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The government decided to reopen Israeli public schools over the next two weeks, even as daily coronavirus infections rose Tuesday to the highest number of cases in the past month.

Children in grades 5 and 6 returned to classes Tuesday, with the Health Ministry announcing that high school grades 10-12 will resume Sunday and grades 7-9 will return to in-school studies on December 6.

The Health Ministry announcement on school reopening came after statistics showed 943 new infections in the past day, the highest daily number since October. There are 513 Israelis hospitalized with coronavirus, with 287 of them listed in serious condition.

Although the number of seriously ill patients has dropped slowly, the rising number of infections may result in increased hospitalizations over the coming weeks. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein previously warned that higher infections could force the government to lock down some sectors again.

Israel has been executing a staged reopening from a nationwide lockdown imposed in September. Under the new guidelines, schools will only reopen in cities and districts where the infection rate is low and the ministry would be “conducting extensive monitoring tests.”

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After several shopping malls violated lockdown rules and opened their doors last week, the government also announced a pilot project that will see some malls and outdoor markets open over the next two weeks in order to test safety measures. Once the results of the project are reviewed, a decision will be made on whether or not to reopen the malls.

This week the government is reviewing the mechanisms and preparations for distributing and issuing coronavirus vaccinations. The first batches of vaccine produced by the American company Pfizer are expected to arrive in December, and mobile refrigeration units are already being set up to store the medicine that has to be kept at extremely cold temperatures before used.

Israel also purchased millions of doses of the coronavirus vaccines produced by the American company Moderna and the British pharmaceutical company AstraZaneca.

The pandemic situation in Palestinian areas has deteriorated. WAFA news agency reported Tuesday on a record 1,946 new cases in the past day, with 17 fatalities. Of the new cases, 1,261 were in Palestinian Authority-administerd areas and 685 in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has already agreed to transfer millions of doses of the vaccine to the Palestinians.