Israel’s coronavirus czar Nachman Ash announced on Thursday that if there are no new outbreaks of COVID, he will call for the full reopening of the educational system.
“We want to see that the return to studies does not cause a rise in contagion,” Ash told Channel 13.
“We are talking about a few weeks only if the current rates are maintained,” he said. “We want to get past the Passover holidays and see that there are no infections in the schools. If there is no rise in contagion, everything will be open in a month.”
Ash also maintained that the vaccinations were having a positive effect on controlling the pandemic.
“At the moment, there is no need to update the vaccine. We are following infections among the vaccinated in order to see that the vaccine is effective,” he said. “We hope that we can stop all the variants that could undermine the vaccine effort.”
Israeli ministers announced changes that will go into effect in schools on Tuesday:
- fourth graders will no longer be required to learn in smaller classes
- students will no longer be required to present a health declaration signed by their parents to enter the classroom
- universities and colleges may begin to hold tests in-person
- the percentage of 11th and 12th graders who must be vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 to hold full classes is now lowered from 90% to 65%
- the new guidelines allow for the mixing of “capsules” during physical education courses and extracurricular activities outdoors
- more students at vocational schools will be permitted to attend in-person classes
Ministers also approved the easing of restrictions on public gatherings, with the new guidelines permitting outdoor gatherings to be increased from 50 to 100. Cultural venues are allowed to host up to 750 people under the Green Pass (certified fully-vaccinated) program, up from the current limit of 500. And large open-air stadiums can increase attendance from 5,000 to 10,000. Indoor arenas can host up to 4,000 seated people.
On Friday, an unnamed official told Kan Broadcasting that the Health Ministry would consider issuing permits for the first tourists to enter Israel in over a year, giving priority to organized groups. This would require the Israeli government to recognize vaccines from other countries on a case-by-case basis.
“Because there is different morbidity in the rest of the world and the fear of mutations, this step should be taken carefully and responsibly,” Nachman Ash told Kan. “If people are in groups, we can control where they go and how they are run. We will discuss this with the Tourism Ministry next week and determine when it will happen — I presume it will take a few weeks.”
On Tuesday, the Population and Immigration Authority announced that foreigners who are vaccinated or recovered COVID-19 patients and who have first-degree relatives in Israel will be able to enter the country to visit them. Visitors are permitted to enter with their partners and children. Israeli citizens or permanent residents and their families whose “center of life” is abroad may also come to Israel to visit first-degree relatives.