The Education Ministry wants all Israeli students back at school next week, a report said Sunday, with the government also gearing up to reopen parks and possibly beaches as well.
Students in grades 4-10 will return to school next week, as the virus wanes, according to an Education Ministry proposal reported by Channel 12.
The unsourced report was not immediately confirmed by the ministry.
Children in grades 1-3 and teenagers in 11th and 12th grades resumed studies last week, under health restrictions.
According to the reported proposal, grades 4-6 would physically go to school for just one or two days a week, on Fridays and possibly Thursdays as well. Studies during the rest of the weekdays would be remote.
Grades 1-3 would either continue to physically go to school five days a week, or go down to four days — Sunday to Wednesday — if it is decided that grades 4-6 will be going to school on Thursdays.
Grades 7-10 would go to school three days a week and study online during the rest of the week.
The report said Education Ministry Director General Shmuel Abuav was checking with the Health Ministry whether wearing masks in class would enable more students in the higher grades to be in a classroom at the same time.
It said authorities were weighing returning kindergartens to their normal operations with all kids coming at once.
Channel 12 also reported that the health and education ministries were debating when to resume full, normal operations in all schools and kindergartens.
The Health Ministry has proposed setting a criteria of no more than 2,500 active COVID-19 patients in Israel — there currently are about 4,800 with recoveries far outpacing new cases — while the Education Ministry has proposed a distinction between different municipalities and local councils. It says full studies should resume in any area where the infection count is less than one per 7,500 citizens.
Back to parks and possibly beaches
Hebrew-language media reports said Sunday that the government was due to approve additional easing of restrictions Sunday night, including reopening parks.
A cabinet meeting was halted in the afternoon and set to resume at 9 p.m., after several ministers reportedly took issue with a clause limiting the use of workout equipment in parks, demanding that clause be removed due to the low rate of infections.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan in a tweet urged the Health Ministry to also reopen beaches and kick off the summer season, saying it was impossible to enforce the current regulations and explain the logic of most public places opening but not beaches, which have recently been been visited by many beach-goers, despite the continued ban.
The ministers were also reportedly expected to cancel the requirement that all people entering the country be sent to a hotel repurposed as a quarantine facility, and give them the option to self-isolate at home for 14 days, with 250 police inspectors paying home visits to ensure they are indeed quarantining.
The ministers said their proposal was based on stats showing that just one percent of returnees have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Those already at quarantine hotels will similarly be given the option to complete their 14-day isolation at home or another available place.
The reports said that all restrictions on commerce in Arab-majority communities and cities imposed due to the holy month of Ramadan will be lifted, with all stores allowed to reopen, except restaurants and cafes.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri was quoted by the Ynet news site as saying the move was enabled by the Muslim community’s “exemplary behavior” during Ramadan, which helped curb the spread of the virus.
However, restrictions will be reimposed ahead of the Eid al-Fitr festival, which ends Ramadan and will be held on or around May 24.
The steps were said to be coming as the containment measures introduced to stem the outbreak successfully brought the number of daily cases down to dozens.
Lockdown measures were introduced over Passover, Memorial Day and Independence Day to prevent contagion, and continue to be in effect in some areas for Ramadan.
In recent weeks, in the rest of the country, the government has rolled back many restrictions on movement and allowed most stores and businesses to reopen.
Police, meanwhile, were gearing up Sunday to enforce restrictions put in place for the Lag B’Omer festival, with traditional bonfires and large gatherings banned this year to prevent spreading the coronavirus.
During the holiday, which begins Monday evening and runs through Tuesday, police will increase their presence in cities, beaches, forests, parks and open areas to enforce the emergency ordinances put in place for Lag B’Omer.
Besides patrolling in cars and on foot, police will also use aerial patrols to locate any bonfires or prohibited gatherings. Violators of the emergency ordinances, which came into effect over the weekend and will be in place until Wednesday, can be hit with a NIS 500 ($142) fine.
The holiday usually sees hundreds of thousands of Israelis throng the Galilee’s Mount Meron, famed as the burial site of the famed second century CE sage and mystic, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai. Children and teenagers across the country also celebrate the holiday with local bonfires.
Lag B’Omer has become a key holiday in the Jewish mystical tradition, said to be the day of the death of Bar Yohai, and also marking the anniversary of when he first conveyed the text of the seminal Jewish mystical work, the Zohar.