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PM said pushing wide rollback of COVID curbs as case numbers plummet

Measures include expanding Green Classroom pilot program to daycares, reduction of criteria requiring Green Pass for children under 12, removing gyms from Green Pass requirement

Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the Coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem, on October 14, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the Coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem, on October 14, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is reportedly planning to push for a significant easing of the government’s COVID-19 restrictions as a wave of infections traced to the Delta variant ebbs to morbidity rates not seen in months.

The number of coronavirus patients hospitalized in serious condition fell to 385 on Thursday evening, the lowest tally since August 7, according to Health Ministry figures. The ministry said there were 1,762 new infections on Wednesday, down from over 10,000 a day at the height of the wave in August and September.

A package of steps to roll back restrictions will be brought before the coronavirus cabinet — a limited forum of ministers whose portfolios have to do with the pandemic — which is scheduled to convene on Monday, Channel 12 reported Thursday.

The measures include expanding the Green Classroom pilot program, which is currently only being implemented in grades 1 through 12, to daycares as well. The pilot allows for students who were exposed to a COVID-19 carrier to return to school once they receive a negative test, rather than requiring the entire class to quarantine for a week.

Another measure will see an end to so-called “afternoon quarantine”: cases in which a student exposed to a carrier but cleared to return to class would still need to isolate while outside school.

The relaxed measures would also see a reduction of the criteria requiring the Green Pass for children under the age of 12 who cannot get vaccinated. The pass, which is required for entry to many indoor venues and some outdoor ones, is only given to those who are fully vaccinated or who have had the virus in the past.

The new rules would see gyms allowed to operate without Green Pass requirements.

Bennett is also looking to reopen the country to tourists, only requiring those who enter to take a COVID test, Channel 12 said, adding that the topic will be discussed on its own some time next week.

Contrary to the government’s strategy during the spring, when the virus appeared to have been nearly eradicated nationwide, masking requirements and Green Pass rules will not be totally lifted, in case of a renewed outbreak, the channel said.

Despite dropping morbidity rates, the death toll from the pandemic continued to rise on Thursday, reaching 7,972.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at the Jerusalem Post conference in Jerusalem, on October 12, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Health Ministry statistics showed the R value, or the rate of spread, at below one, albeit rising slightly. A rate below one means that not each carrier is infecting a new person and that morbidity is dropping.

The number of active cases stood at 20,925, as of Thursday evening.

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