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Corona cabinet to consider returning millions more students to school

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The coronavirus cabinet will convene on Monday to discuss the country’s next steps in its fight against the novel coronavirus. The meeting will take place against the backdrop of increasing infection and amid a call from Education Minister Yoav Gallant to return more students to their classrooms.

The Health Ministry reported 763 new cases of the virus on Friday, plus another 235 since midnight on Saturday – 313 people were in serious condition, including 121 who were intubated. Some 1.8% of the people screened tested positive for the virus – up 0.4% from the day before.

The reproduction rate – the number of people one sick person infects – stood at around 1.05. The death toll stood at 2,754, meaning 10 more people died in the 24 hours between Friday and Saturday evening.

Nonetheless, Gallant is calling to return students to their classrooms.

“Millions of students need to return to schools immediately. In the long months of prolonged closure, they have accumulated large educational gaps and suffer from loneliness,” Gallant wrote on his Twitter page Saturday night. “The damaging consequences of prolonged quarantine will be with children for a long time. We must not forget the future generation of the State of Israel.”

He called on the Health Ministry leadership to “think nationally, to join the Education Ministry and together return all students to their schools.”

N12 later reported that the Health Ministry is considering changing its stance and working with the Education Ministry to return all students to school in green cities, those areas with low infection rates. N12 said that Health Minister Yuli Edelstein is expected to support the move at this week’s cabinet meeting.

The Health Ministry is also evaluating a plan to have school children and teachers rapidly tested in red cities to enable schools to operate there.

Newly appointed coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash followed in his predecessor’s footsteps on Saturday and visited the Arab town of Qalansawe, which is currently locked down. He was accompanied by Ayam Saif, coronavirus project coordinator for Israel’s Arab sector.

While he was the commissioner, Prof. Ronni Gamzu regularly visited Arab cities and towns on Shabbat.

From left: Ayman Saif, Abdulbast Salameh and Nachman Ash (Credit: Health Ministry)From left: Ayman Saif, Abdulbast Salameh and Nachman Ash (Credit: Health Ministry)

The infection rate in Arab society is higher than across the rest of the country. All of the red zones – cities that are currently closed – as well as most orange zones are from within the Arab sector. Health officials believe that the majority of infection is being spread at large gatherings, especially weddings.

 

“I’m sure anyone who holds a wedding does not want his relatives to be infected; these are the people he loves the most,” Ash said during his visit. “I encourage the police to take all necessary means of enforcement. You need to break these events apart as fast as possible – and I am sure it is not easy.

 

“You need to know,” he continued: “Weddings are what is causing the outbreak in the Arab community, along with people returning from abroad.”

 

He added that “discipline is very important – this is not a government plot,” noting that he will closely monitor the procedures and actions the municipality is taking to help reduce infection.

 

Saif expressed similar sentiments. He said that the national closure reduced infection, but as the country started to open, the weddings returned.

 

The project coordinator recalled the closures imposed by the Ministerial Committee for Restricted Areas on the Arab-majority communities of Nazareth and Isfiya on Friday. Those closures started Saturday morning and will last until Thursday morning at 8 a.m.

 

At the same time, the restrictions on Qalansawe and Buq’ata were extended until Friday, November 27, also at 8 a.m.

 

On Friday, protesters gathered in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market, protesting regulations that have prevented them from opening their stalls there.

 

Dozens of merchants from the market gathered in Tel Aviv and attempted to block the road outside of the market. Protesters held signs that read “help” and “let us earn a living in dignity.”

 

“There is no rebellion here,” said one of the merchants to Ynet. “There is a loss of livelihood and [there is] desperation.”

 

Meanwhile, around half a dozen malls opened Friday at the prompting of the Malls Association. These included at least three Ofer-run malls – in Beersheba, Petah Tikvah and Krayot – where several chain stores from Fox and Golf to Steimatzky welcomed customers. They were quickly shut down by Israel Police.

 

The Azrieli Group had also opened some malls on Friday, but these shopping centers opened in coordination with the Health Ministry as part of a pilot program described by ministry director-general Chezy Levy last week to see if the ability exists to control the number of shoppers entering the stores and to epidemiologically track them where there is an outbreak.

 

The group said Saturday night in a statement that they would remain closed this week until otherwise notified by the coronavirus cabinet.

 

“The pilot has been completed successfully,” the group said. “Until new decisions are made on the issue of the outline by the coronavirus cabinet, the group’s malls will remain closed.”

 

“This is not the time to open malls en masse,” Levy warned Thursday.

 

Malls have been closed since the start of the High Holy Day lockdown on September 18.
Eve Young contributed to this report.



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