Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said on Wednesday that his ministry was drafting an outline for the opening of the upcoming school year on Sept. 1 under the specter of rising coronavirus infections.
According to Horowitz, the setup will have a strong focus on testing rather than constraints, dodging questions at a press conference on bringing back “capsule learning,” dividing classes into smaller groups of students and combining classroom and distance learning. .
Israel had almost all health restrictions lifted in May after a rapid vaccination campaign, but the spread of the Delta variant has led to an increase in new COVID cases, prompting the government to cut back some curbs.
In his comments, the health minister stressed the importance of a strengthened rapid virus testing device for students who cannot be vaccinated against the virus until the opening of the school year and said the state will pay for testing students under 12. . .
In addition, the ministry will approve the sale of affordable, rapid-test kits at pharmacies across the country, in addition to opening several rapid-test stations that will begin operating nationwide this week.
Horowitz also mentioned his reservations about closing Ben-Gurion Airport – Israel’s main gateway – and mandating isolation for all travelers arriving from abroad to prevent the importation of new coronavirus variants.
“It is essential to monitor the gateway to Israel. I want to make it clear that we have no intention of closing Ben-Gurion,” he said. “It is a crucial service that must remain open but cautious. What we are asking is more testing at the airport, because that is where variants come and continue to come from.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Health Ministry Director General Prof. Nachman Ash said he is in favor of reducing stricter health measures to fight the wave of coronavirus, including the Green Pass mandate, teaching capsules in schools and mandatory quarantine for all returning travelers from abroad.
Prof. dr. Ash told Ynet that the so-called “Revelry Pass” order that went into effect Wednesday morning is not enough to contain the spread of the Delta variant.
The mandate requires anyone entering events attended by more than 100 people to show a green pass or a negative coronavirus test at the entrance.
“My professional stance is to take immediate steps. We think it’s not good to wait because it will be harder to stop when we reach higher numbers [of active cases],” he said.
“We are working closely with the Ministry of Education to formulate a plan that includes both coronavirus testing and a plan to prepare for situations, where there are more areas with high infection rates, where there is no choice but the classes. to reduce it to prevent its spread.”
Prof. dr. Ash said Health Ministry representatives will recommend the government to bring back the Green Pass mandate at a coronavirus cabinet meeting on Thursday.
Green Pass is a certificate issued to those who have been vaccinated with both vaccine shots or have recovered from COVID. Before Israel lifted most of its health restrictions in May, the Green Pass had to be displayed at the entrances of many public facilities.
“We will present our advice for the return of the Green Pass. I estimate that there will also be a discussion about the airport. There are some options that should eventually reduce access [of travelers] from Ben Gurion Airport.”
He added that the health ministry is currently considering recommending mandatory isolation for all arrivals from abroad or at the very least expanding the list of countries considered “high risk”.
“It is an option that we are discussing, and there is an option to expand the circle of countries that need isolation. We will formulate the design [on airports] during the day.”
Meanwhile, Israel reported on Wednesday that 1,400 people tested positive for COVID-19 the day before and 150 of them, accounting for just over 10% of new cases, were from abroad.
The health ministry said that after more than 80,038 tests, the infection rate now stands at 1.76%.
The ministry said at least 63 people are in serious condition, 12 of whom are on a ventilator. The official death toll now stands at 6,452.
About 130 of the newly diagnosed individuals came from countries not considered high-risk, and travelers from those states are not subject to mandatory quarantine upon arrival.
At least 35 of those newly diagnosed returned from Greece, 15 from the United States, 15 from Cyprus, 12 from Turkey, 10 from Georgia, five from the United Kingdom, four from Italy, three from Germany, three from Bulgaria and two from Peru , France, Hungary, Netherlands, Tanzania, Ukraine and Egypt each.