Coronavirus: Quarantine for schoolchildren may end next week - Bennett

Coronavirus testing station was set up by Magen David Adom by young health care volunteers in Katsrin, Golan Heights. September 15, 2021.
(photo credit: MICHAL GILADI/FLASH90)

Health Ministry says they will examine the prime minister’s request, as number of serious patients drops below 500.

Isolation for schoolchildren exposed to a verified coronavirus case could end as early as next week, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday, as the fourth COVID wave continues to slow down.

"In light of the success in fighting the fourth wave – the numbers are falling every day – as part of the rethinking of the strategy, I want to find a solution to bring forward the exemption from quarantine for students in green cities as early as next week, without waiting until October 15,” he said, while speaking with the national team in charge of the fight against the pandemic. “The principle is this: tests instead of isolations.”

“I ask you to come up with solutions,” he said, addressing health officials. “I want to give peace of mind to parents that they can go to work and send their children to school, and end this period of uncertainty.”

According to the plan that has been discussed over the past two months, children are going to be tested regularly in order to quickly identify those who are infected and avoid outbreaks in schools. In addition, if they are exposed to a verified case, students will be checked every day for a week – with a PCR at the beginning and at the end of the period, and rapid tests in between – and won’t have to quarantine unless they receive a positive result.

A pilot to test the feasibility of the outline – known as “Green Class” – has been carried out in a few schools around the country.

Cities and neighborhoods in Israel are labeled by the Health Ministry as green, yellow, orange or red based on their level of morbidity, rate of vaccination and other parameters under the “Traffic Light” system.

“At the request of the prime minister, the issue will be examined,” the ministry said after Bennett’s remarks. “In any case, it is necessary to complete the pilot in order to formulate a responsible and well-thought-out epidemiological recommendation. The professionals have so far worked to examine this issue in accordance with the decision approved by the cabinet.”

Health officials have been hesitant about the idea of canceling the isolation for students since the summer, when the topic became a matter of controversy between the Health and Education ministries.

As of Wednesday, some 75,000 students were in isolation after being exposed to coronavirus patients, in addition to another 18,000 who were infected with the virus, about half of the 35,000 active cases in the country.

At the peak of the fourth wave, over 40,000 schoolchildren were positive, also half of the 80,000 sick Israelis.

Meanwhile on Tuesday night, the number of serious patients in Israel dropped below 500 for the first time since August. On Wednesday it stood at 487.

Some 2,502 cases were identified on Tuesday, with 2.3% of the 115,000 tests done being positive.

Speaking before the Knesset plenum, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz expressed satisfaction regarding the good trends, but said that even when Israel is past the fourth wave, all the infrastructures to fight against the pandemic will be maintained “so that we will be ready if, God forbids, there is another wave.”

“Unfortunately, none of us knows what the future will bring us and what we will need to do to react."

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