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2 million students return to schools, not yet fully reopened

Only students up to 3rd grade will have full in-class studies, with older children to continue in capsules or remotely; some universities start classes for vaccinated students

Illustrative: Students wearing face masks return to school in Yad Mordechai, on March 7, 2021. (Flash90)
Illustrative: Students wearing face masks return to school in Yad Mordechai, on March 7, 2021. (Flash90)

Some two million children went back to school Monday with the conclusion of the Passover holiday break. But the education system is still not fully open for studies due to the coronavirus outbreak and most students will continue to study remotely for at least part of the time.

Most universities are opening their gates again, but only to students who have a so-called Green Pass indicating they have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19. Under Health Ministry guidelines, higher education institutions are required to also broadcast classes online so that students who have not been vaccinated can join the lessons.

As infection rates have plummeted the economy has largely reopened. No cities are currently listed as “red” areas with high infection rates and families were able to celebrate the weeklong holiday together, with some limits on gatherings still in place.

Tens of thousands of school students were thus returning to class after their communities were delisted as red areas during the holiday.

But children under 16 are not eligible for vaccinations, and health officials have highlighted the issue as an ongoing danger that could allow the virus to continue circulating — alongside the threat posed by variants from abroad that could be more resistant to vaccines.

Channel 12 reported that over the weekend the infection rate among students and education staff was at 1.8 percent compared to 1.1% for the general population.

Under the current arrangement, classes for kindergarten through third grade will return to full studies and will not be restricted to capsules. Before Passover, capsules were required from second grade and up.

Students in fourth grade will study five days a week and remain in capsules.

For grades 5-12, students will only study in class for two or 2.5 days a week. On other days, they will learn remotely.

Full studies are allowed for 11th- and 12th-grade classes in which 90% of students have been vaccinated.

Channel 12 estimated that over 1 million students will only be in class part-time.

Last week, the Education Ministry, local government leaders and a national parent group requested a full return to classrooms, but the Health Ministry opposed the move, the Ynet news site reported at the time.

Israel’s virus numbers have been plunging across the board amid its world-leading vaccination campaign.

The Health Ministry said Monday there were currently 5,232 active cases, bringing the confirmed total since the start of the pandemic to 834,446.

There were only 194 new confirmed cases on Sunday, continuing the trend of decline.

The ministry reported 327 patients in serious condition. The death toll stood at 6,243.

The positive test rate on Sunday was 0.6%.

As of Sunday, 5,269,052 Israelis have received their first vaccine dose, and 4,839,840 have received both shots.

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