Higher education institutions, youth groups to restart Sunday with restrictions

Universities, colleges said unhappy announcement made on eve of Shavuot holiday, leaving little time to prepare; schools, kindergartens to reopen in previously virus-stricken areas

Students at the Tel Aviv University on the first day of the new academic year, October 14, 2018 (Flash90)
Students at the Tel Aviv University on the first day of the new academic year, October 14, 2018 (Flash90)

Higher education institutions will reopen on a wider basis from Sunday and youth movements will also be permitted to resume operations, it was decided Thursday.

The announcement was made by Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Education Minister Yoav Gallant and Higher Education Minister Ze’ev Elkin as the downward trend in nationwide infections continued despite an increase in cases in the reopened education system.

Universities and colleges will be permitted to operate if there are no more than 50 people at any one event or lecture, two meters distance is kept between people unless they are doing an activity requiring physical contact such as sport, and all must be wearing masks.

However, universities and colleges were said to be unhappy that the announcement that classes would resume on Sunday was made on the eve of the Shavuot holiday, meaning there would be no time to prepare.

Illustrative image of students in the campus at of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, on May 8 2013. (Dudu Greenspan/ Flash90)

The Haaretz daily reported that Beersheba’s Ben Gurion University said classes would continue online with the exception of laboratory work and practical training. Other universities were expected to make similar announcements.

In addition, schools and kindergartens are to reopen in areas where they remained shut due to previously being centers of outbreaks, some of which were under lockdown.

The announcements came as coronavirus cases rose in the reopened education system. It was announced Thursday afternoon that five teachers and six students have now been diagnosed at a Jerusalem high school that has been shut down for a week.

The Hebrew Gymnasium high school in Jerusalem, August 3, 2007. (CC BY-SA Neta/Wikipedia)

A ninth-grade student at the Hebrew Gymnasium in the Rehavia neighborhood was initially diagnosed with COVID-19 on Tuesday, upon which 210 fellow pupils and teachers were sent to quarantine for 14 days. The school, which has 1,200 students, will remain closed for at least a week and go back to online studies.

The Thursday statement by the Jerusalem Municipality said students at the school who receive health services from the Clalit or Meuhedet HMOs were requested to come to a drive-through coronavirus test facility at the city’s Teddy Stadium by 2 p.m. to get tested. The remaining students were asked to contact health clinics to arrange a test.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion arranged with the management of Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital that all 180 staff members at the school will be tested for COVID-19 at the medical center’s drive-through facility on Sunday, the statement said.

A Magen David Adom worker at a drive-through coronavirus testing facility in Jerusalem on March 24, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Meanwhile, all students and staff at home but not in quarantine were told to stick to strict social distancing guidelines.

Also Thursday, two sisters from the central Israel city of Bat Yam were diagnosed with coronavirus, having contracted it from their mother, Channel 12 reported.

One of them is a tenth-grade student at the city’s Shazar high school, with 28 of her classmates and 10 staff members now entering isolation. The other attends a kindergarten, whose 35 kids and four staff members have all been quarantined.

On Wednesday, two students at Tzafit high school in Beit Berl caught the virus. The school remained open, but 62 students and staff members were sent to isolation.

According to the latest update by the Health Ministry on Thursday morning, there were 1,890 active cases of coronavirus in the country, continuing a downward trend now threatened by the renewed outbreaks in schools.

Customers sit at a Coffee Shop in Jerusalem after it was reopened on May 27, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The total cumulative number of cases was 16,809.

Forty-one patients were in serious condition, 38 of whom were on ventilators. Another 34 carriers were in moderate condition and the rest were displaying mild symptoms, the Health Ministry said.

No additional deaths were reported, with the death count holding at 281 since Monday.

The newly instituted coronavirus cabinet tasked with facilitating the government’s response to the virus is concerned that while the number of active cases continues to drop, fewer people are coming in to be tested, according to Channel 13, which also said the ministers had expressed concern that even fewer Israelis will seek to get tested during the Shavuot holiday on Friday.

Recent weeks have seen a sharp drop-off in the number of new virus cases, with the country lifting restrictions on movement, businesses and educational institutions. Restaurants, pubs, hotels, pools and other establishments began opening up and hosting patrons Wednesday, hours after authorities gave the go-ahead to ease pandemic restrictions and allow some of the last businesses remaining shut to reopen.

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