Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Child and teachers at the Gan Nayot kindergarten in Jerusalem, May 10, 2020.

Israel’s Health Ministry called on Friday morning for all the kindergarten teachers and their assistants to be tested for the coronavirus, following the Corona Cabinet’s decision to open early childhood education institutions this coming Sunday, as part of the easing of the general lockdown.

But despite the Corona Cabinet’s decision to open kindergartens and daycare centers as early as next week, various components of the education system are warning that they will not be able to return to full activity on a whim. The teachers’ union claimed that the government was in a hurry to open the education system without proper preparation for the new situation, ignoring the advisories of the Ministry of Health.

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The teachers’ union warned that “due to lack of preparation and solutions, there may be severe disruptions in opening the kindergartens.”

Nevertheless, the Home Front Command is deploying many sampling stations throughout the country over the weekend, to allow kindergarten teachers to be tested, ready or not. Kindergarten staff will not be required to present a doctor’s referral but will need to show an ID card and a payslip.

1,608 new verified patients were diagnosed on Thursday in Israel, and the rate of positive cases dropped to 4.5% out of 37,487 test results. As of Friday morning, there are 713 critical patients in Israel, of whom 247 are on respirators.

The Health Ministry announced that 14,896 people tested positive for the virus this past week, a figure which is 51.35% lower than the week before when 30,622 tested positive. The number of active patients in Israel is 38,355, a decrease of 20,992 from last week when the figure stood at 59,327.

1,259 corona patients are currently in Israeli hospitals – a decrease of 304 from the previous week.

264 people have died in Israel this week, 2,128 Israelis have died since the outbreak of the pandemic some 8 months ago.

Following the decline in morbidity, the Corona Cabinet on Thursday approved the first phase of easing the general lockdown, permitting educational institutions for children up to the age of six to return to full activity, as well as businesses that do not admit clients in person. Also, the 1,000 meters from home restriction will be rescinded, and it will be legal once again to visit other people’s homes.

In addition, in-person take-out from restaurants will be legal again, in addition to deliveries, the beaches and nature reserves will be open to the general public, crowds of up to 20 people in an open space will be accepted, up to 10 in an enclosed space (so start davening, what are you waiting for?).

Of course, Israel remains the land of last-minute improv, and Chairman of the Knesset Education Committee Ram Shefa (Blue&White) said he was happy about the reopening of kindergartens, but added: “The Education Ministry has managed to disappoint me, and not for the first time. We asked them if they had prepared an outline (for restarting the various classes – DI) but they did not answer any of our inquiries.”

“The Education Ministry and the Health Ministry need to reach understandings and publish an outline,” Chairman Shefa warned, explaining that “the issue of learning in capsules in daycare centers is very complex because it requires manpower and solutions within the buildings.”

Shefa expressed his hope that “when the upper classes reopen, we will have to be prepared in advance.”

The organizations that operate the supervised daycare centers have also warned that they will not be able to return to full activity on Sunday and said in a statement: “The supervised daycare facilities will not be able to open before Monday and in some cases even Tuesday. The procedure for returning a facility to full activity is complex and takes several days, and even though we warned about this so that parents would not be needlessly disappointed – the government was waiting as usual for the last minute.”

Curiously, improv troops don’t thrive in Israel, possibly because they are tantamount to giving fish a show about water.

The daycare groups promised to work around the clock to bring back employees from their unpaid vacation, find solutions for at-risk employees, clean and disinfect the facilities, and in general, take care of everything required to ensure a quick and safe opening with full adhering to all the guidelines.

Finally: the Corona Cabinet also warned on Thursday that the threshold condition for approval of the staggered easing of the lockdown continues to be a weekly average of not more than 2,000 new patients a day, and an infection rate of 0.8. And if there is an increase in morbidity as a result of the relief, the lockdown would be reinstated.

So don’t delete your Zoom and Skype just yet.

Incidentally, the senior Haredi member of the Corona Cabinet, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) voted against the partial relief, likely because the fate of education institutions in red cities—which are 90% Haredi—has not yet been finalized.

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