On Thursday, the education and health ministries’ came to an agreement to put an end to the ‘traffic light’ program implemented in schools. The aim of the program was to determine whether in-person classes could be conducted in schools, depending on the vaccination rates of every class. As infections in Israel reach record levels, education and health officials have decided that the classroom vaccination rates should no longer be regarded as a deciding factor for conducting in-person lessons because an entire class could shift to remote learning because of low vaccination rates. This decision will undoubtedly ease the ability to hold in-person classes for schools, during the fifth infection wave driven by the Omicron variant.
Instead, the education system will follow a policy implemented in commercial settings, which requires workers to take a rapid antigen test after getting exposed to a COVID carrier and stay at home until a negative test result. 10 days of quarantine are mandatory in case of a positive result. If the unvaccinated are exposed, they have to quarantine for a week and are only released when they get a negative result in an antigen test taken at a testing facility, rather than their own homes. If the Knesset’s Education Committee ratifies the new school policy, it would mean that all daycare centers and schools would return to in-person activity from Sunday onwards.
Directives that cap class sizes at 70% capacity and limit close activity amongst students will also be lifted. As per the new policy, physicians in the school district will also be able to decide whether a school should be shut down, or not, in the event of an outbreak. School visitors and teachers will have to show a ‘green pass’, which confirms they are protected from the virus, in order to enter school grounds. However, unvaccinated teachers do have the option of showing negative test results. Students would still have to wear masks when attending school.
New virus testing protocols have also been introduced in Israel due to the surge in new infections. The goal is to ease the long lines at testing facilities and to conserve supplies. The new testing policies announced by the Health Ministry on Wednesday were put into effect from midnight between Thursday and Friday. The new rules dictate that PCR tests can only be administered to those considered at risk, or are over the age of 60, and exposed to a COVID-19 carrier. They don’t have to quarantine in case of a negative result.
However, a positive result would mean 10 days of isolation. A second test wouldn’t be required at the end of the quarantine period, but a doctor’s approval would be needed for ending it. Others who are recovered, or fully vaccinated, have to perform a rapid antigen test after exposure, either at a supervised testing station or at home. They can also be exempt from quarantine with a negative result. If they get a positive test result at home from a rapid antigen test, they need to visit a supervised testing station to take another antigen test for confirmation.