Israel to alter COVID isolation rules for students amid Omicron

The model that allows students to continue learning despite classmates testing positive will no longer apply when two students test positive at the same time.

Preschool classroom (photo credit: FLICKR)
Preschool classroom
(photo credit: FLICKR)

The government has decided to tighten the Green Class outline and increase testing of students participating in it over fears that the Omicron variant could spread in schools.

Currently, there are 2,134 children between the ages of five and 11 who are positive for the virus, the Health Ministry data showed. 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton met on Thursday evening and decided that the Green Class model that allows students to continue learning in school when a classmate has tested positive for the virus will no longer apply if two students or more test positive at the same time. In this case, all students in the classroom will have to enter isolation.

They said that the decision is because 5% of all reported cases are from classrooms where two or more students were found to have the virus. 

Classrooms where only one student is infected will still be able to operate according to the Green Class model. 

However, the model is also changing. Going forward, if a student tests positive for the virus, then his or her classmates will have to take an additional PCR test on day three. 

 Cabinet meeting led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on October 17, 2021 (credit: ALEX KOLOMOISKY / POOL) Cabinet meeting led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on October 17, 2021 (credit: ALEX KOLOMOISKY / POOL)

As the Green Class program currently stands, students test on days one and seven with a PCR test and then on the interim days with an antigen test. 

Moreover, the Green Class model will also no longer apply in cases where a student is suspected of being infected specifically with the Omicron variant

If a school is not enrolled in the Green Class program, then only vaccinated students will be able to learn frontally when a classmate is diagnosed with COVID. Unvaccinated students will need to learn via distance learning.

The Green Class program was designed by experts at Sheba Medical Center to help keep kids out of isolation so parents could work and after numerous studies showed the negative impact quarantine and distance learning was having on children.

Classes enrolled in the program until now could allow kids to go to school even if classmates were positive, so long as they took a test daily for seven days. The program was proving effective, Health and Education ministry officials had said.

In October, the Education Ministry reported that in about 87% of classes in which an infected student was found, up to only two additional students were verified.

In 82% of classrooms, there were no infected children by day seven.

 The decision on changing the Green Class program is not final, an announcement by the ministries said, but will be brought to the cabinet for approval on Sunday.