The school year in Israel will begin as scheduled on September 1, the government has decided after much heated debate. Students will be vaccinated on campus and ‘Green Passes’ will be mandatory for teachers and staff.
A cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, arrived at the decision early on Monday despite calls to postpone the reopening at least for a month due to a recent spike in coronavirus cases caused by the more contagious Delta variant.
Almost 200 people have died of Covid-19 over the past week in Israel, which only recently celebrated victory over the virus. There were 6,467 new infections in the country in past 24 hours, with 1,142 people remaining in hospitals, according to the Health Ministry. The largescale booster shot campaign, which already saw 1.4 million Israelis getting their third dose of the vaccine, hasn’t yet been able to reverse the alarming trend.
For offline classes to go on without disruption in such conditions, “pupils… will be vaccinated on school grounds during school hours, subject to parental approval,” a government statement read. Children over 12 are eligible for Covid-19 shots in the country, with 30% of those between 12 and 15 already being fully vaccinated.
The ministers also implemented the so-called ‘green pass’ policy for all teachers and school staff, meaning they would only be allowed in their workplaces after presenting a vaccination certificate or negative coronavirus tests.
In cities with high rates of infection, remote learning could be introduced for eighth to 12th-grade students where less than 70% of the class are vaccinated, the government said.
The cabinet finally made the decision after weeks of internal struggle, which also continued during the latest meeting.
According to leaks publish by Ynet news, Bennett reprimanded Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton for arguing that implementing the ‘green pass’ system at such short notice was “impossible” as there were simply not enough teachers to replace their unvaccinated colleagues.
“You are against, and that’s fine, but don’t say ‘impossible.’ I was also education minster,” the PM reportedly said.
Shasha-Biton eventually voted in favor of opening schools on September 1, while Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked abstained.
Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash, who only last week warned that if infection rates don’t decline “there will be no choice but to delay the beginning of the school year,” has apparently changed his mind on the issue. “I think we can open schools in safe manner,” Ash told 103 FM Radio on Monday.
Over the weekend, Israel also started a nationwide serological test program for more than a million kids between three and 12, who can’t get vaccinated due to their young age. It’s aimed at detecting students with antibodies after asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus, so that they could be granted ‘green passes’ and avoid the need to quarantine if their classmates get sick.
However, the launch on Sunday was marred by long queues and delays as the online registration system, which is run by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), crashed, forcing troops to manually write down the details of those getting tested.
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