Cabinet set to approve partial reopening of schools starting Thursday

Netanyahu spokeswoman says ministers expected to back plan that’ll allow students up to and including grade 4 to return to class in towns with low infection rates

A first-grade student on his first day of school at Tali Geulim school in Jerusalem, on September 1, 2020. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
A first-grade student on his first day of school at Tali Geulim school in Jerusalem, on September 1, 2020. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Schools across the country will remain shuttered through Wednesday, but ministers are likely to back a plan that will allow for the partial reopening of some schools beginning Thursday, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

“Following consultations between Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, Defense Minister [Benny] Gantz, Health Minister [Yuli] Edelstein, Education Minister [Yoav] Gallant and Health Ministry experts against the backdrop of the spread of the British mutation, it was decided that the education system will not open tomorrow and that consultations on the matter will continue,” the PMO said in a Monday statement.

Subsequently, the PMO said the ministers had decided to extend the closure for an additional two days as they work to reach a final decision regarding a reopening plan.

A spokeswoman for Netanyahu said ministers were going to meet again on Tuesday and would likely vote to approve a plan that would allow all students from grade 4 and below, including preschools, to return to classes if they are located in “green” and “yellow” locales with lower infection rates. All older students, along with all children in higher-infection “orange” and “red” locales, are expected to continue remote learning.

High school students take a matriculation exam at Yehud Comprehensive High School on February 3, 2021. (Flash90)

Speaking at a conference earlier in the day, Gallant argued that schools would not be a source of new coronavirus cases and that children were being infected at home. Moreover, he maintained that towns with low infection rates should be allowed to reopen schools immediately, lamenting what he termed Health Ministry foot-dragging on the matter.

At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu and Health Ministry officials issued dire warnings of the potentially devastating consequences of reopening schools with coronavirus morbidity remaining high, and variants of the virus hitting children harder than previous strains.

Meanwhile Monday, malls and restaurants were threatening to reopen on Thursday in defiance of government orders, according to a coalition representing the businesses.

A hairdresser wearing a face mask does hair extensions to a customer at a hair salon in Tel Aviv, as Israel exits a third lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on February 7, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Israel Commerce Forum announced that it plans to allow vaccinated Israelis, those who have recovered from the virus, and those who have a negative test result from the past 72 hours to enter the premises. It also plans to allow children, who cannot be vaccinated, into stores and restaurants.

The ICF was established to unite national commerce, shopping malls, markets, and restaurant organizations in confronting government policy during the lockdown.

Israel’s third nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 was eased on Sunday at 7 a.m. after over a month, as the country continued to grapple with thousands of daily new cases.

Restrictions on travel inside the country and businesses that do not serve the public were removed, and businesses with individual interactions, like hairdressers and cosmeticians, were allowed to open, among other steps. But many businesses and shops remained shuttered, as did schools and preschools.

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