COVID-19: Quarantine for children to be canceled from next week

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton announced the new guidelines which will replace isolation for children

 Press conference with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton on the new COVID-19 regulations for children, January 20, 2021 (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Press conference with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton on the new COVID-19 regulations for children, January 20, 2021
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

Quarantine for children will be canceled entirely beginning on Thursday, following discussions between the Health Ministry and pediatricians regarding the coronavirus isolation policy in the education system.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton have agreed on the new guidelines that will replace the current isolation policy.

“In recent weeks almost all parents in Israel have experienced this difficulty,” Bennett said at a news conference on Thursday evening. “The Omicron wave is reaching its peak, and it is difficult to live a routine life like this with the high number of people in quarantine. I am aware of the distress and have been following the events taking place elsewhere in the world.”

The new guidelines will see children taking antigen tests twice a week, on Sunday and Wednesday. If the test comes back negative, the child will continue attending school as usual.

Students across the country will each receive three free antigen tests every few weeks in order to ease the financial costs of the new program.

A HEALTH worker administers a COVID test to a child at a Maccabi HMO clinic.  (credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90)A HEALTH worker administers a COVID test to a child at a Maccabi HMO clinic. (credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90)

All children and young adults from birth to 18, whether vaccinated or not, will no longer need to self-isolate after coming into contact with a verified coronavirus case. Only when an antigen test returns a positive result will they have to remain home.

“We are taking responsibility,” said Bennett. “This move also requires responsibility from you, the parents, to carry out the tests properly. If a child has symptoms or a positive test result, just do not send them to school.”

Michal Cohen, former director-general of the Education Ministry, said “the decision to end isolation within the education system is called for. If the malls and places of entertainment are open, it does not make sense for schools and classrooms to close.”

The Health Ministry recommended that high-risk children age 5-11 become eligible for a third dose of the corona vaccine.

The suggestion follows a study carried out on the morbidity rates of children and adolescents during the Omicron wave in Israel, and the extent to which the vaccine has protected them.

The study examined the benefits of the vaccine among children and adolescents, and found that those who had received a vaccine in the last two months were better protected against the Omicron variant than the unvaccinated or those who had been vaccinated several months earlier.

The study found that children age 5-11 who have been vaccinated with two doses in the last two months were twice as protected as unvaccinated people in the same age group, and teens age 12-15 who have been vaccinated with a booster shot in the last two months are four times more protected than those who have not been vaccinated.

Based on the findings of the study, which was carried out by researchers from the Health Ministry, the Weizman Institute of Science in Rehovot, the Haifa Technion, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, the Health Ministry decided to recommend a booster shot for children age 5-11 who belong to high-risk groups in the hope that it will similarly increase the level of their protection against the current Omicron wave.

The dose given will be adapted specifically for children just as the previous two shots were.