Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Education Minister Yifat Sasha-Biton delivered a statement to the media Thursday evening regarding the approved changes to the quarantine system for students.
The Prime Minister began by saying, "In recent weeks, almost every parent in Israel has experienced distress. The Omicron wave is currently reaching its peak. The number of infected people is considerable as is the number of those in quarantine, among children as well. It is difficult to maintain normal life this way, at home, in school and at work."
"I am attentive to the distress. We have been very careful in everything regarding the health of our children. Therefore, we waited to see what was happening in other places around the world that are experiencing the worst of the wave. We made certain – and we will continue to do so – that we are on solid ground vis-à-vis the risks of Omicron to children.
"In recent days I held thorough discussions with health system and education system personnel and also with the directors of the children's hospitals in order to see how we could get the children back to school but in a sure and careful manner.
"This evening, we have good news. The children of Israel are going back to studying continuously. As of next Thursday, we will begin Operation 'Testing and Learning'.
"This is how it will work: All children in Israel, from birth to 18 will be tested with home tests once on Sunday morning before going to school and once on Wednesday morning. Children that are tested and found to be negative will go to school as usual. If they are verified, they will stay home until they recover. Thus, twice a week, all children in Israel will be tested and classes will go on as usual.
"We have already seen to delivering three free tests to every pupil in Israel, and in the coming days we will see to the delivery of millions of additional free testing kits to parents. I want to say here that the state is making efforts for parents and children who need a framework and routine.
"We are taking responsibility. We saw to the testing kits; we distributed them and will distribute more. However, this will also require personal responsibility from you the parents to be strict in properly carrying out the tests. If a child is sick, does not feel well, has symptoms or has been tested positive, simply do not send them to kindergarten or school.
"Citizens of Israel, with G-d's help, we will get through the Omicron wave with minimal harm to the economy and human life. This is what we set out to from the start – keep the economy open. True, fighting a pandemic is complicated. That is the nature of the Omicron. But thanks to the correct and quick decisions that the government made at the outset, we succeeded in being the best in the world at preparing ourselves, in formulating a strategy after we saw what was happening overseas, in procuring drugs, in inoculating almost 600,000 seniors with the fourth dose of the vaccine, and in safeguarding retirement homes and the most vulnerable in society.
"I would like to express appreciation for the Israeli public, especially you the parents, for the patience and responsibility that you are showing at this time. This wave is hard on all of us. There is a verified case in almost every home. But the truth must be told: The Omicron is less virulent and this wave will end sooner relative to previous waves.
"Again I would like to thank my government colleagues, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton and the wonderful team at the Health Ministry. The plan is a joint plan – with everyone's approval. We are acting in a responsible and balanced manner and will continue to do so. Testing every child in Israel, twice a week, will also help us reduce morbidity and bring the wave to an end.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel. In less than a week, classes will be back to normal. We are in the final throes. A little more patience and we will get through this together," Bennett said.