Nearly 24,000 students and staff quarantined with 139 schools, daycares shut

248 children and educational workers now diagnosed with coronavirus as nationwide spike in cases continues

A cleaning worker disinfects a classroom at the Gymnasia Rehavia high school in Jerusalem, June 3, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A cleaning worker disinfects a classroom at the Gymnasia Rehavia high school in Jerusalem, June 3, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Education Ministry said Wednesday that dozens more students and teachers have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, taking the number of cases in the school system to 428.

Additionally, 1,909 children and staff at educational facilities have gone into isolation since Tuesday evening, taking the total number to 23,786 currently in quarantine, Hebrew media reported.

Several more educational institutions have been closed, the ministry said, taking the total to 139.

Health officials have attributed much of the recent nationwide rise in new cases to schools, which reopened in May after a two-month closure.

Technicians carry out a diagnostic test for coronavirus in a lab at Clalit Health Services branch in Tel Aviv, on June 9, 2020 (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The government last week decided against closing all schools, but said it could use targeted closures anywhere a coronavirus case is found. Students and teachers are mostly required to wear face masks and are supposed to keep to strict hygiene practices.

The figures came after a further 88 coronavirus cases were diagnosed overnight, the Health Ministry announced Wednesday morning, indicating a continuing trend of mounting infections after the country decided to roll back most restrictions last month.

The number of active virus cases has surged to 2,761, according to Health Ministry figures, after having dipped below 2,000 last month.

Of them, 31 were in serious condition, including 24 on ventilators. Another 41 were in moderate condition, and the rest were displaying mild or no symptoms. The death toll remained steady at 299.

Earlier in the week 179 cases were identified in 24 hours, the highest number of daily cases diagnosed since late April. Officials have bemoaned a slackening of public observance of virus rules, though lawmakers and policy leaders have also flouted health guidelines.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered stepped-up enforcement of social distancing rules, including giving city officials the power to join police in enforcing mask wearing and rules against large gatherings. A day earlier, the government decided to freeze plans for a further easing of restrictions that would have allowed trains and concert venues to resume operations.

Israelis, some wearing protective face masks and some not, in Tel Aviv on June 9, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, local authority inspectors and qualified Population and Immigration Authority inspectors will now enforce the wearing of masks, and stop gatherings held against regulations.

In addition, they will have powers to check adherence to the so-called Purple Badge standard for businesses and commercial centers, and work to enforce quarantines for people diagnosed with the coronavirus and those they have been in contact with.

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