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COVID in Israel: New cases spike as education system in disarray – Israel News – Haaretz.com

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Israel recorded the highest number of daily coronavirus cases in four months on Monday, as expired measures in schools drive the education system into disorder.

The Health Ministry on Monday logged 6,562 new COVID cases, marking a 360 percent rise over the past week and the highest figure logged in Israel since the end of September. According to the ministry’s figures, there are currently 110 patients in serious condition. The number of seriously ill patients has been steadily rising since December 22.

The R number, which marks the average number of people a carrier of the virus infects, has been on the rise throughout December and the beginning of January. On Monday, the figure climbed to 1.88, reaching its peak since June. The figure reflects Health Ministry data up to 10 days prior.

In addition, Israel will admit foreigners with presumed COVID-19 immunity from medium-risk countries as of January 9, the Health Ministry said on Monday, moving to reverse a ban on entry by foreigners imposed in late November in response to Omicron variant surge.

Those entering Israel from ‘orange’ countries will have to prove in advance they are either vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 and would be subject to PCR testing before and after their arrival, but the mandatory quarantine period would fall from 72 hours to 24 hours.

Israel will keep the United States, Britain, United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mexico, Switzerland and Turkey in its so-called red list, essentially barring incoming tourists from these countries.

As of Monday, 110 cities and communities across Israel are classified as COVID hotspots. Coronavirus regulations at Israeli schools in communities ranked red or orange – those with the highest and second-highest rates of infection – expired overnight into Sunday, essentially forcing some students to study remotely as well as go into quarantine in case they are exposed to a carrier.

New regulations have not been submitted to the coronavirus cabinet amid disagreements between the health and education ministries. The Knesset Education Committee had been scheduled to convene on Monday morning to ratify new regulations, but the meeting has been cancelled.

The so-called Green Classroom plan – which permits students and teachers to come to school in communities with low-infection rate even if they are required to be in quarantine as long as they test negative – also expired, leading to confusion among parents over whether children are studying in person or online.

As a result of this expiration, elementary school students on the Green Classroom program will have to enter quarantine if they exposed to a confirmed COVID patient. Until Sunday night, the Green Classroom plan allowed them to continue to attend school if they got daily tests for a week.

The Green Classroom program kick-starts once a student tests positive for coronavirus. If the program was already in motion before it expired, it will remain in place until Thursday evening.

Also on Sunday overnight, regulations on studying in ‘red’ and ‘orange’ localities also expired.

The regulations applied to communities with high infection rates, and required that junior high and high school students in classes with a vaccination rate of less than 70 percent be taught in a socially distanced setting – on either Zoom or outdoors.

With the expiration of the regulations, the students in ‘orange’ communities will resume their regular study in classrooms. In ‘red’ communities, students in grades eight through to 12 in classes with a vaccination rate lower than 70 percent will be taught through distanced learning or another framework with limited contact. Seventh graders will resume regular classroom instruction.

Currently, there are 87,393 students and 4,310 staff members in quarantine.

Meanwhile, some universities across Israel announced that they are shifting from in-person learning to leaning remotely. The Hebrew University in Jerusalem will move to remote learning starting Sunday. Tel Aviv University asked lecturers to continue teaching as usual, though some courses will be over Zoom.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urged older Israelis to get a fourth coronavirus shot in a nationwide address, after announcing the approval of a fourth shot for all adults aged 60 and over as well as medical staffers.

The government is further preparing to loosen testing criteria to reduce the strain that has crippled testing sites across the country, Bennett said on Sunday, due to the limited capacity of testing centers in Israel.

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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