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Students in low infection towns won’t have to quarantine after virus contact

PM, Health Ministry say pupils can return to class upon receipt of negative PCR test; they will then take rapid tests for a week, at the end of which a negative PCR will clear them

Young students arrive for their first day of school after the holidays, at Gabrieli School in Tel Aviv, September 30, 2021 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Young students arrive for their first day of school after the holidays, at Gabrieli School in Tel Aviv, September 30, 2021 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Beginning next week, students in towns with low COVID-19 case rates will be able to avoid the quarantine mandated for those who come in contact with a coronavirus carrier, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office announced Thursday in a joint statement with the Health Ministry.

Those students in locales identified as “green cities” by the Health Ministry will undergo PCR tests carried out by the IDF’s Home Front Command or one of the country’s Health Management Organizations. Once a student receives a negative test, they will be allowed to return to school immediately rather than being subject to a week-long quarantine.

In addition, exposed students will undergo rapid tests every day for a week, at the end of which they will take one more PCR test before the class is allowed to return to routine operation.

It was unclear if the rapid tests will be administered at home or at school, and whether the rule applied only to children who came into contact with a carrier at an educational institution, or whether it would also include other situations.

The new policy will be gradually implemented in “green cities” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a joint statement with the Health Ministry. Students in towns with higher case rates will still be required to quarantine upon exposure to a COVID-19 carrier.

For weeks, the government has been seeking to implement policies aimed at preventing mass quarantine in schools. Since the start of classes last month, thousands of students have been forced to self-isolate at home due to exposure to COVID-19 carriers, oftentimes requiring parents to miss work in order to supervise their children.

Earlier this month, the government began implementing a pilot program of mass testing in several towns, which the new policy will effectively replace.

People stand in line to be tested for COVID-19 at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, July 19, 2021. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The development came as Israel continued to see a slide in COVID-19 infections that officials hope indicates the country’s fourth wave of coronavirus cases is waning. Health Ministry figures from Thursday morning showed that 2,369 new COVID-19 cases were diagnosed the previous day, with 2.3 percent of tests giving a positive result.

Active cases dipped further to 33,044 and serious cases continued their decline to reach 475, but the number of patients defined as critical grew to 235.

The death toll rose to 7,867.

Updated rules came into effect this week regarding the Green Pass, a document that grants access to public venues for those who are either inoculated against COVID-19, have recovered from it, or have recently tested negative.

Under the new rules, new Green Passes will only be issued to those who have had either the first two or all three vaccine shots, and will only be valid for six months, starting a week after the last dose. In addition, those who have recovered from COVID-19 can get a Green Pass valid for six months after their recovery date, or for six months after receiving a single follow-up vaccine dose.

New Green Passes were supposed to start at midnight Saturday with the revoking of existing passes held by some 2 million Israelis. But a rush of people trying to download the fresh permits the next day crashed systems, prompting the ministry to say the validity of old passes would be extended.

A temporary Green Pass can also be obtained through a negative virus test, which must be paid for unless the individual is not eligible for vaccination. It is only valid for a few days at most.

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