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Source optimistic most will get 3rd dose over Sukkot

Education Ministry: Half of teachers haven’t received COVID booster shots

Ministry source says no intention to relax regulations, unvaccinated school staff will be required to perform COVID tests twice a week in order to enter educational institutions

View of a classroom in a girls school in Tzfat, August 30, 2021.  (David Cohen/Flash90)
View of a classroom in a girls school in Tzfat, August 30, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Education Ministry reported Sunday that only half of teachers in Israel have received a coronavirus vaccine booster shot.

It wasn’t clear whether that figure was out of all teachers or out of the roughly 90 percent of them who have received the first two doses.

Starting October 1, anyone eligible for a booster shot who hasn’t received one will have their Green Pass revoked, requiring them to present a negative coronavirus test to attend various venues and events. Schools are included in the Green Pass system, with teachers required to either be vaccinated or regularly display a COVID-19 negative test result.

As of Sunday evening, 3,055,366 people in Israel — 33% of the total population — have received a third booster dose of the vaccine.

According to the Education Ministry, there is no intention at this stage to relax the regulations for teachers and all unvaccinated teaching staff will be required to perform a coronavirus test twice a week in order to enter their educational institutions.

“We believe that most teachers will be vaccinated with a booster during the week of Sukkot and during the first days of school,” a source in the Education Ministry was quoted by the Walla news site as saying.

“A teacher who is not vaccinated with a booster will have to undergo [regular COVID-19] tests. Most teachers have been vaccinated with the first and second vaccines, meaning they are no longer in the business of denying vaccines. For most of them, it’s just a matter of timing when they going to do the third. I do not see a situation where most teachers won’t be vaccinated,” they said.

Illustrative: A kindergarten teacher seen at the “Kobi kindergarten” in Moshav Yashresh, on February 8, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

According to the source, the Education Ministry will broaden the information about the coronavirus vaccines given to teachers.

“We will increase information among teachers and also prepare for the worst situation — a big shortage of teachers. But I do not see [potential] chaos here, teachers are responsible people,” they said.

Earlier Sunday, unions representing both school and kindergarten teachers slammed a decision by lawmakers that requires students returning to school following the upcoming Sukkot vacation to present a negative COVID-19 antigen test.

The teachers’ union said it was not the job of educators to monitor students’ adherence to health regulations.

At a meeting of the Knesset Education Committee on Sunday morning, secretary-general of the Israel Teachers’ Union Yaffa Ben David told lawmakers that school principals and kindergarten teachers are not supposed to be “coronavirus wardens.”

“Someone here is completely confused,” she said, according to a statement put out by the union.

Yaffa Ben David, head of the Israel Teacher’s Union in Jerusalem, on March 15, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Sunday evening, the regulation was passed by the Education Committee.

Prior to its approval, Ben David said that if the rule were to be approved, the Israel Teachers’ Union will petition the High Court of Justice “to prevent this decree.”

The association of kindergarten teachers likewise said in a statement: “We are not the police and our job is not to prevent entry to kindergarten.”

The new measure is expected to apply to all students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Ahead of the start of the school year on September 1, parents of all students in first through sixth grades were requested to pick up rapid antigen testing kits from schools and administer them to their kids, but they were not made mandatory for admission to classrooms.

Rapid tests can be completed at home and results take less than 15 minutes. According to the new measure — approved by the attorney general — parents or guardians will be asked to sign a declaration that the test came back negative.

A parent picks up a COVID rapid testing kit ahead of the opening of the new school year, in Tel Aviv, August 30, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Most students across Israel were in school on Sunday for the final day ahead of the festival of Sukkot, which begins Monday evening. The majority of schools are shut for the entire weeklong holiday, with children slated to return to classrooms on September 30, two days after the holiday ends.

Meanwhile, serious COVID-19 cases hit their highest figure so far this month, 11 days after the end of the Rosh Hashanah festival, which is often celebrated with large festive meals.

Over 8,500 Israelis tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday, 59 percent of them school-age children, the Health Ministry said. As of Sunday morning, close to 45,000 students had COVID-19, and another 92,000 are in mandatory quarantine following exposure to a verified patient.

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