Hospitalized child (illustrative)
Hospitalized child (illustrative)iStock

In light of new information indicating that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 presents a risk to children, the Midaat association on Wednesday urged the Israeli government to rethink a plan which would see quarantines canceled for schoolchildren exposed to confirmed COVID-19 carriers.

Midaat is a non-profit association committed to advancing public health in the areas of health care and preventative medicine.

The plan is scheduled to take effect on Thursday, but the Health Ministry and Association of Pediatricians have urged that its implementation be delayed by at least one week.

Since the plan would raise the number of children contracting Omicron, Midaat experts have called to wait on the plan and to reassess in another week, in order to see if Israel has reached a point where the wave is receding. It also called to reassess the risks in light of the new information which Israel is expected to receive by then. Until then, steps should be taken to reduce contact in the educational frameworks, so as to reduce unnecessary exposures. Midaat also urged to call on parents to vaccinate their children in order to provide them with the greatest protection possible.

Edva Lotan, who chairs Midaat, said, "The infection rate in the Omicron wave continues to break records and we continue to receive reports about how the Omicron variant of coronavirus also puts children at risk of significant complications in the short term. As of today, there are 20 children hospitalized in serious condition, whereas at the beginning of the week there was almost half that amount."

"In addition, we cannot know, and there is no good reason to assume, that Omicron does not present a risk of additional complications in the long term as well.

"The decision to cancel quarantines was based on the assumption that Omicron does not present a danger. Now, when we are receiving [new] information that shows the opposite, it is important to stop and weigh the decision again. Operating the plan to cancel the quarantines in the educational system, at the present point in time, places the children at great risk, along with their family members and obviously teaching staff as well.

"This is a dangerous and irresponsible policy, which gambles with the present and future lives and health of our children."

Also on Wednesday, the Israel Teachers Union called on Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton (New Hope) to delay the plan's implementation, in light of the recommendations by medical professionals.