Monday evening’s coronavirus cabinet meeting concluded with a number of important agreements regarding the nation’s schools and businesses. Despite threats made last week that the reopening of schools could be delayed due to a slight rise in the number of new daily cases of the virus being reported, cabinet ministers ultimately agreed to reopen classes for students in all grades.
The easing of restrictions applies to all “green” and “yellow” localities where rates of infection are relatively low. Grades five and six will now resume learning on Tuesday, and students in grades ten to twelve inclusive will resume partial in-class learning next Sunday. Students in the remaining grades (seven to nine inclusive) will go back to school the following week, on December 6.
Since all haredi-majority localities are now “green” according to the government’s “traffic-light” categorization, all haredi educational institutions will be permitted to reopen, after weeks of tensions between haredi leaders and government officials as well as dire warnings by senior officials in the Health Ministry and other government departments that all haredi areas would turn “red” following the High Holidays – which did not come to pass and in fact the reverse was true.
The Health Ministry has also announced that the number of tests administered to teaching staff will be increased, in order to ensure that any outbreak, if it occurs, can be promptly contained.
As late as last week, the government’s former coronavirus project manager, Moshe Bar Siman Tov, who presided over the government’s response to the “first wave” of the virus this spring, cautioned that a “premature” reopening of the educational system could lead to a spike in virus cases. Concurrently, a senior official in the Education Ministry pointed out that since the reopening of a number of grades, including all preschool and kindergarten classes, virtually no cases of coronavirus have been reported in schools.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly urged governments to reopen schools, pointing to data showing that in the rare cases where outbreaks do occur among children, they do not generally pass on the infection to adults. Scientists have yet to find an adequate explanation for this phenomenon.