Photo Credit: Chen Leopold / Flash 90
Illustration of Israeli school children wearing protective face masks preparing to go back to school, May 16, 2020

Israel’s Coronavirus Cabinet is set to vote at its meeting Sunday on final details of a plan to open the public school system.

Representatives from various elements in the education sector are expected to attend the meeting, according to The Jerusalem Post.

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Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash said in an interview Saturday night with Israel’s Kan News public broadcaster that he believes the schools should open on September 1, as scheduled. “It is correct to open the schools on time,” he said.

On Friday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted a photo of crates that landed at Ben Gurion International Airport, containing a total of 1.7 million rapid COVID-19 tests.

The tests are to be distributed to the schools and then to the parents, so each can test his or her child before the first day of school. “Our goal,” Bennett wrote, “is to reduce the entry of students who are verified [with coronavirus] on September first.”

Likely to Vote ‘Yes’ On Sept. 1 School Opening
Ultimately, it is expected that the Coronavirus Cabinet will vote in favor of opening the schools on September 1, as scheduled – at least the high schools, according to a report by Israel’s Channel 12 News.

However, there is still some disagreement among the ministers about whether to allow the lower grades – including the kindergartens – to open.

Ash told Israel’s Channel 13 News in an interview on Friday that there is a small reduction in the number of critically ill patients, and that this may be enough to allow all the grades to open.

Israel Expanding Third Shot Eligibility
Israel’s Advisory Committee for the Coronavirus Vaccines and Epidemic Control voted late Thursday to allow all educational staff who were fully vaccinated five months ago or more to receive a third, booster shot of the vaccine.

In addition, people ages 40 and up are being encouraged to get the third shot, as are pregnant women.

The prime minister received his third shot on Friday after it was allowed for those age 40 and up.

Israelis 30 and Up to Receive Third Shot
Meanwhile Israel continues to lower the age which the third shot should be given.

On Saturday, Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai said that Israel will expand the rollout of the vaccine booster to all adults ages 30 and up, according to i24TV.

Professor Salman Zarka, the country’s new Coronavirus Czar also told the television station, “We have to do our best to avoid another lockdown.

“It’s very problematic for people staying home and not getting their medical services. I want to believe we can slow down the virus, especially the severe cases. I am a little optimistic,” he added, “especially with the people taking the third shot.”

Latest Numbers on COVID-19 in Israel
On Saturday night, the Health Ministry said there were 7,761 new cases of the virus diagnosed over the past 24 hours, out of 144,885 tested – a 5.45 percent morbidity rate.

Out of 1,055 hospitalized coronavirus patients, there are currently 645 people in serious and critical condition – the highest number of serious cases since March 10 – and of those, 110 patients are depending on ventilators for survival.

Sixteen people have died from the virus in the past 24 hours, bringing the Israeli death toll to 6,775 since the start of the pandemic.

As of Saturday night, 1,365,887 Israelis have received a third shot of the vaccine; 5,440,210 Israelis have received the full two-dose series of the shots.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.