Coronavirus cabinet approves some retail openings, school debate rages on

"The decision of the coronavirus cabinet is no less than a spit in the face of the youth!"

Children are returning to school in Israel amid the coronavirus pandemic. August 24, 2020. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Children are returning to school in Israel amid the coronavirus pandemic. August 24, 2020.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
In a long and contentious meeting on Monday, the coronavirus cabinet approved the opening next Sunday of businesses that work one-on-one, such as barbers and beauty salons, and is expected to approve the reopening also on Sunday of retail businesses on the street.
During the meeting, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that if the retail proposal would go to a vote, he would vote against it. He does not have veto power over the cabinet’s decision.
Discussions continued on Monday concerning how to reopen schools and retail businesses in the next stage of the exit from the coronavirus lockdown. After a long day of stormy debates on Sunday, the coronavirus cabinet decided that first through fourth graders will go back to school on November 1. They will all be divided into capsules, with first and second graders meeting for three days a week, while third and fourth graders would study all week.
Plans for reopening the schools bogged down Monday over the details of the afternoon programs. Dividing afternoon programs into capsules would be expensive, so it was proposed that the students should be together in the afternoons, which seems to negate the value of capsule learning during the morning. The Prime Minister's Office and the Health and Education ministries released a statement Wednesday night that they would work together on a plan so that there would be capsules in afternoon programs as well. They also said they would try to reduce the seven-stage program for reopening to five stages.
The afternoon program plan stirred the most emotional debate of the day. Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, acting head of the Health Ministry’s public services division, said that, “from a health standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to mix the capsules in the afternoon – the virus will attack just as it does in the morning.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said regarding mixing children from capsules in the afternoon programs, “We’re taking a certain chance there. I don’t accept this. My question is whether it is possible to organize another set of afternoon programs – is it really so hard?”
Finance Minister Israel Katz attacked the Health Ministry for demanding changes and an increased budget for the reopening of first and second grade, saying that the demands went against earlier agreements made at the start of the school year.
The lack of clear decisions is taking a toll on many Israelis. Parents protested in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square against the Education Ministry’s plan of returning children to school for only half of the week.
Mayors of cities around Israel expressed outrage that the cabinet had seemingly ignored a reopening plan presented by local authorities which would allow schools to operate for five full days a week for all grades, saying that with the decisions by the cabinet, there is “no reason to open the education system on November 1.”
Haim Bibas, mayor of Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut and chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel, called the plan presented by the government for the reopening schools “delusional and detached.”
“The actual intention is not to bring back the first and second grades – and the parents will not be able to leave the house,” said Bibas. “It is unclear how the coronavirus cabinet and the prime minister, who knew the authorities could run it better in capsules and [for] five days a week, opted for a ‘solution’ that is not a solution. [They are] again sacrificing children and their parents for unprofessional reasons.”
“When the economy returns to work, we will find that there is no place for children – 20% of private kindergartens have closed,” Hanan Dagan, CEO of the Kindergarten Union, said in a meeting of the State Audit Committee to discuss the distress in the preschool sector.
The committee’s chairman, MK Ofer Shelach (Yesh Atid) said: “Caring for kindergartens and private dormitories is the key to employment and education in dealing with the crisis.”
Some 569 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in Israel on Sunday and another 495 were reported since Sunday at midnight, according to an update by the Health Ministry. Of those infected, 486 are in serious condition and 196 are on ventilators. There have been 2,440 deaths from the virus.
Following reports of a secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office who tested positive for the virus this morning, an epidemiological investigation was conducted with the aim of disrupting the chain of infection. It was found that the prime minister was not required to enter quarantine.
The Health Ministry announced Monday that there were three people who traveled to Israel from Istanbul on three separate Turkey Airlines flights between October 18 and 22 and asked anyone who might have been on those flights to check the flight numbers on the ministry’s website. Those who were on those flights should go into quarantine immediately.
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz tweeted on Monday that, “following the lockdown in Majdal Shams, which has become a ‘bright red’ city, the defense establishment is directing increased resources to the locality. We have added food packages to the municipality for those in quarantine, Home Front Command forces are working with local authorities and we are accompanying every quarantined home with the military staff project. We will not leave anyone behind.”
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.