Ministers vote to allow schools to reopen in medium-infection locales

Restrictions on classroom learning also relaxed for students in 11-12 grades if enough have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID

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

Ministers on Wednesday night voted to allow additional schools around Israel to reopen from Thursday, in a further easing of coronavirus restrictions.

Educational institutions can now operate in all “orange” communities in the government’s color-coded “traffic-light” system for morbidity rates, according to a joint statement from the Prime Minister’s Office and Health Ministry.

So far schools have been allowed to reopen in “green” and “yellow” areas as well as in some “orange” locations — depending on vaccination levels and other factors. Schools in “red” areas with the highest infection rates remain closed.

Cities that are currently classified as “orange” include Jerusalem, Ashkelon, Beersheba, Bnei Brak, Tiberias, Beit Shemesh, Netanya and more.

Following the vote, grades 11-12 can also resume classes without socially distanced “capsules” if at least 90 percent of students are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. Students in grades 11-12 with a 75% rate of vaccination and recovery can also return to the classroom, but must do so in “capsules.”

The decision to allow more schools to reopen was due to “improved morbidity indicators and a desire to allow more students to return to normal studies,” according to a Health Ministry statement.

Fifth-grade students at the Alomot Elementary School in Efrat on February 21, 2021 (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The move came after 7th-10th graders in low- to medium-infection areas were allowed to return to class Sunday as part of a further rollback of lockdown measures. Students in those grades were the last to remain at home, studying remotely, under the pandemic restrictions.

Higher education institutions and religious seminaries were also reopened this week to vaccinated or recovered people.

Schools have been largely shuttered in Israel for much of the past year, leading to frequent protests by parents and children.

Infection rates among children and school reopenings are a central concern as Israel steps out of its third-wave virus outbreak. Children represent a larger proportion of infections than earlier in the pandemic, presumably due to new virus variants and the fact that a significant share of adults have been vaccinated.

The vaccine has not yet been approved for children under 16, although Israel has vaccinated dozens who suffer specific COVID-19 risk factors.

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