Photo Credit: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90
Workers at a Tel HaShomer Hospital quarantine facility, February 20, 2020.

Israel’s health ministry on Friday morning released the latest data on its employees who have been quarantined after coming in contact with the coronavirus, showing 949 doctors, 635 nurses, and 170 paramedics are currently in isolation.

As part of the effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, all schools and institutions of higher education across the country have been shut down starting Friday morning, on the order of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Education Ministry Director Shmuel Aboav told Reshet Bet radio that he expects teachers to continue to direct students through long distance learning even during the suspension of class study. He noted that he was fighting to protect teachers’ salaries during the forced suspension, but added that regardless of this issue, “the expectation is that teachers, even while they are at home, would stay in touch with their students and provide guidance.”

“On the other hand,” he admitted, “there are the demands of the finance ministry,” which would love nothing more than to curb its deficits by cutting teacher’s salaries while said teachers are forced to stay home.

“I make every effort to protect their wages,” Aboav said.

Aboav added that for now the state matriculation exams are expected to take place on time.

Tourists putting on face masks for fear of the coronavirus tours at the Western Wall, March 05, 2020. / Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

According to a decision of the education ministry, nursery schools, kindergartens, boarding schools, special ed programs and programs for youth at risk are expected to continue to operate. Still, there have been serious disruptions in kindergartens across the country, as kindergarten teachers are refusing to come to work. In the Tel Aviv district alone, more than 200 kindergarten teachers called in sick Friday. There have also been disruptions in Ramla, Ma’ale Adumim, Yehud, Sdot Negev, Ra’anana, Rosh Ha’ayin, Hod Hasharon and Petah Tikva.

Several local municipalities decided to cancel their kindergartens on Friday because of the spread of the coronavirus as well as the stormy weather. These include, Rishon LeTsiyon, Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi, Kiryat Ono and Rehovot.

The head of the health ministry’s public health dept., Professor Sigal Sadecki, told Reshet Bet the decision not to shut down kindergartens was made because only 1% of the coronavirus patients are children.

Sadecki also that synagogue Shabbat services should take steps to reduce the number of participants to a maximum of 100.

“The situation in Israel is still under control and we hope it will remain so,” she said, stressing that “we are at the stage of trying to stop the spread of the disease.”

An education ministry official said on Friday that kindergarten teachers are very angry because their children bring lots of germs with them, and the kindergarten teacher is required to hug and kiss them – which is a dangerous thing to do when one believes the child may be the carrier of a lethal virus.

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