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Virus czar troubled by school reopening, says mandating vaccination ‘an extreme step’

Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash says the imminent reopening of some schools in low and medium infected areas keeps him up at night.

Ash, in an interview with Army Radio, says: “I don’t sleep restfully at night. If there was only the health consideration, I would recommend a closure for another month, but there are other aspects.”

He says the current proposal is “appropriate risk management.”

Israel’s coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash visits the Ziv hospital in Safed, December 24, 2020 (David Cohen/Flash90)

Under the Health Ministry proposal, kindergartens and grades 1-4 and 11-12 will open Thursday in cities designated as “green” and “yellow” in the government’s color-coding system for morbidity rates. Some medium-to-high infection cities, flagged as “orange,” will also see these grades opened, depending on various statistics and provided that at least 70 percent of their residents aged 50 and up are vaccinated. Most “orange” cities don’t meet the criteria. Those that do include Kiryat Motzkin, Tirat Carmel, Kfar Yona, Karmiel, Mevaseret Zion, Ness Ziona, Savyon, Ramat Gan, Ramat Yishai and Raanana.

Ash also expresses disappointment in President Reuven Rivlin’s reported attendance at a funeral that violated the gathering rules, saying it harms public trust.

And he opines that requiring Israelis to vaccinate — as suggested by some in the government — would be “an extreme step.” His comment comes after Health Minister Yuli Edelstein floated the possibility of government legislation to enable employers to restrict activity by non-vaccinated workers.

“It could be that there will be situations in which we’ll say, either you get vaccinated or you get tested. We’re weighing this option, including its legal angles,” says Ash.

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