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Schools will not reopen fully after Passover break, despite low infection rate

Only students in 3rd grade and below will resume normal studies; most pupils will remain in capsules or learn remotely part of the time

Israeli students return to school in Yad Mordechai, March 7, 2021. (Flash90)
Israeli students return to school in Yad Mordechai, March 7, 2021. (Flash90)

Schools will be limited by virus restrictions as students return to class after the Passover holiday on Monday, despite Israel’s plummeting infection rate.

The economy has largely reopened, no cities are currently listed as “red” areas with high infection rates and families were able to celebrate the weeklong holiday together, with some limits on gatherings still in place.

Children under 16 are not eligible for vaccinations, however, which health officials have highlighted as an ongoing danger that could allow the virus to continue circulating, along with the threat posed by variants from abroad that could be more resistant to vaccines.

Classes for kindergarten through third grade will return to full studies and will not be restricted to capsules, Channel 12 reported. Before Passover, capsules were required from second grade and up.

For students in fifth through 12th grade, students will only study in class for two or two and a half days a week. On the other days, they will learn remotely.

Full studies are allowed for 11th and 12th grade classes in which 90% of students have been vaccinated.

Channel 12 estimated that over 1 million students will only be in class part-time.

Tens of thousands of students will return to class after their communities were delisted as red areas during the holiday.

Last week, the Education Ministry, local government leaders and a national parent group requested a full return to classrooms, but the Health Ministry opposed the move, the Ynet news site reported.

Ynet said the Health Ministry was planning a move to roll back restrictions on higher learning, including limits on in-person classes, testing and campus cafeterias.

An Israeli student receive a COVID-19 vaccine injection, at Amal high school in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, March 17, 2021. ( Flash90)

Israel’s virus numbers have been plunging across the board amid its world-leading vaccination campaign.

Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, said Sunday that infections in Israel had dropped 96% since a mid-January peak that saw an average of over 8,000 new daily cases, and had topped over 10,000 confirmed infections in a single day.

There were 90% fewer new critical patients, 85% fewer deaths, and the weekly average of daily cases was only 327, the lowest rate since June, Segal said.

The Health Ministry said Sunday there were 5,217 active cases, bringing the confirmed total since the start of the pandemic to 834,247.

There were only 124 confirmed new cases on Saturday, although testing tends to be lower on weekends.

The ministry reported 344 patients in serious condition. There were three new fatalities on Saturday, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Israel to 6,243.

The positive test rate on Saturday was 1.1%.

As of Sunday, 5,267,908 Israelis have received their first vaccine dose, and 4,837,313 have received both shots.

A Health Ministry team recommended Sunday that authorities cancel the requirement for the public to wear masks outside. The final order will be issued later after approval from Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy, Ynet reported.

The military announced Sunday that combat troops and soldiers in training will no longer have to wear face masks when they are in open areas beginning this week, as part of a new Health Ministry-approved pilot program.

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