Israeli schools may reopen in orange cities for first time - Health Min.

The decision changes previous directives according to the country's "Traffic Light" program, prohibiting schools to reopen in orange cities.

PUPILS OF the Gevim School in Beersheba wear masks designed by British schoolchildren.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
PUPILS OF the Gevim School in Beersheba wear masks designed by British schoolchildren.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Schools will be allowed to reopen in cities that have been designated orange, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced on Wednesday.
The decision was reached in light of the gradually decreasing coronavirus morbidity rates in the country and as yet another attempt to allow Israeli students to return to normal learning activity. 
The decision changes the previous directive according to the country's "Traffic Light" program, which dictated that schools will only be allowed to reopen in cities designated green, yellow or partial orange.
The previous directive, with its fine line between the partial orange and orange designations, had recently caused several cities and neighborhoods to reclose schools after just a few days of reopening, leading frustrated residents and local authorities to beg the Health Ministry to reconsider the program's classification system. 
Edelstein also announced Wednesday that students in grades 11-12 will be able to resume learning in school without using capsules, once 90% of the school's students have been vaccinated for the virus.
Schools where 75% have been vaccinated will be allowed to teach 11-12 graders in capsules. 
Earlier Wednesday, Coronavirus Commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash expressed his optimism at the decrease in coronavirus patients, as 3,055 new cases of coronavirus in Israel were reported for Tuesday by the Health Ministry.  
Ash retracted his previous statement regarding the chance of another lockdown before the elections.
"I am satisfied with the current state of the numbers," he said. 
Later on Wednesday, the Jerusalem Municipality released the list of neighborhoods where schools will finally provide frontal learning starting Sunday, for all grades. 
These include the neighborhoods of Gonenim, Neve Yaakov, Givat Massuah, Kiryat Menachem, Bayit VeGan, the Old City, Wadi al-Joz, Sheikh Jarrah, Bab a-Zahara, Shuafat Refugee Camp, Anata, Silwan, City of David, Abu Tor, At-Tur and Isawiya. 
Neighborhoods still designated red in Jerusalem will offer limited classes in open spaces for up to 20 students and staff members at a time. 
As of Wednesday morning, the number of patients in serious conditions dropped to 653, the lowest since December. Some 215 of them were on ventilators.
Another positive development is that the R rate, measuring the ability of the disease to spread, stood at 0.95, marking the second consecutive day with a decrease.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, some 5,936 people have succumbed to the virus in Israel.
On Tuesday, Public Health Services head Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis suggested that the Health Ministry was working on a system to ensure that schools can remain open as much as possible. Edelstein's announcement from Wednesday seems to be the first stage in that direction. 
On the vaccination front, just over five million Israelis have received at least one shot, including 3.9 million having received both.
“The coronavirus is not behind us,” Alroy-Preis said during the press conference on Tuesday, adding however that she hoped the statistics would continue to improve and that Israelis could finally have a quasi-normal life, even as COVID is still present in the country.
Rossella Tercatin contributed to this report.