Schoolchildren
Schoolchildren iStock

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday is holding talks about the possibility of delaying the implementation of a new plan to cancel quarantine for schoolchildren exposed to confirmed COVID-19 carriers.

If it is not delayed, starting on Thursday only children whose parents followed the guidelines and tested them twice a week, and who tested positive, would be required to quarantine. The plan has no enforcement mechanism for ensuring that parents test their children or refrain from sending those who test positive to school.

Wednesday's discussion follows a recommendation by Israel's Health Ministry to delay the plan's implementation by a week, in light of the infection rates and the overburdening of pediatric wards in hospitals.

The meeting is attended by Bennett, the Health and Education ministers, as well as top officials in both ministries.

Earlier on Wednesday, Professor Zachi Grossman, chairman of the Israel Pediatric Association and a member of the Staff for Management of Pandemics, told Kan Bet that in his opinion, Israel should hold off on canceling quarantines for children in school.

"Within four days we have seen a doubling in the number of children hospitalized in serious condition," he said. "We are very concerned about beginning the plan of tests now, and in a discussion yesterday between the managers of pediatric wards we heard voices speaking about the crisis in the wards."

He emphasized, "In the past twelve hours we have been called by our colleagues on the ground and told, 'Stop!'"

Prof. Grossman had been one of those who drafted the new plan, which would have allowed children exposed to COVID-19 to continue attending school and relied on parents to test their children regularly and keep home those whose antigen tests were positive. Last week, he spoke out in favor of the plan, telling 103 FM Radio, "Not only do I support the plan, I was one of those who crafted it."

"We proposed this plan and I think it will succeed. Instead of quarantine, two tests each week. Through them we will be able to monitor infections and ensure that we are not missing large outbreaks."

At the time, he also said, "We see, and continue to see, the enormous damage caused to children by the Zoom years - depression, anxiety, and so on.... There is damage to the mental and emotional development of children who remain at home and on Zoom."