On Sunday, around 200,000 Israeli teachers and school kids were in self-isolation, after they had tested positive for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone who was infected. According to the data of the Education Ministry, the number of students who were in quarantine after testing positive was about 75,993 and 13,364 staff members also fell in the same category. About 103,153 students were also in quarantine because they had come in contact with someone exposed to the coronavirus and 4,354 staff members. The numbers indicated that 7.2% of the staff and students in the education system were not present on Sunday, as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus rampages throughout Israel.
The ministry disclosed that there was at least one confirmed case of the coronavirus in 40% of the classes. While the new variant continues to spread, there are a number of government officials who have pushed the Health Ministry to change the rules of quarantine and shorten the period to five days, as done in the United States. This includes Yifat Shasha-Biton, the Education Minister. In the cabinet meeting on Sunday, the Education Minister said that unnecessary isolation leads to a number of problems in students, such as abnormal sexual behaviors, various mental health issues as well as eating disorders.
New rules for quarantine had already been imposed on Thursday, where the quarantine period was shortened from ten days to seven for asymptomatic patients of the coronavirus. However, those who do have symptoms throughout the week will have to quarantine for the full 10 days. Nachman Ash, the Director-General of the Health Ministry, said on Sunday that they were considering the possibility of reducing the isolation period for employees of medical institutions as well as other essential positions. But, Ash did not state if this would also be applicable to the education system.
The data from the Health Ministry on Sunday showed that 27,167 people had tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday. There was also an increase in the number of serious cases to 436, which was a surge of 82 from the previous day. Of these serious cases, 96 patients were on ventilators. There was a downward trend seen in the ‘R’ number, which is the transmission number dictating the number of people one carrier infects on average. On Thursday, it had been at a high of 2.12 but had declined steadily to reach 1.59. There was also a fall in the positive test rate, as it came down to 9.5% after it had gone up on Friday to as high as 15%.
On Saturday, there were almost 300,000 tests conducted. The fifth virus wave in Israel has also affected more than a dozen ministers and lawmakers and the latest included Labor MK Naama Lazimi and Chili Topper, the Culture Minister. The two had tested positive on Sunday and added that they were not experiencing any symptoms. The missing lawmakers haven’t had any impact on Knesset sessions. Saturday saw eight more people die of the coronavirus, which increased the death toll to 8,319.