Coronavirus: Schools, malls, museums and marketplaces to open

There were 949 new cases of coronavirus in the last day.

Shoppers wear face masks and walk around a fashion shopping center in Ashdod, as restrictions over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) ease around Israel, May 5, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
Shoppers wear face masks and walk around a fashion shopping center in Ashdod, as restrictions over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) ease around Israel, May 5, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
Schools, malls, museums and marketplaces will all begin to open in the coming days and weeks, after ministers voted overnight Monday to continue opening up the country.
The decisions were made the night before the Health Ministry reported the largest number of new daily cases in more than a month: 949 – 1.8% of those screened. There were 278 people in serious condition, including 115 who were intubated. The death toll stood at 2,821.
The cabinet agreed to return all students living in green or yellow cities to their classrooms. High school students in grades 10 through 12 will return to school this Sunday and middle schoolers in grades seven through nine will go back a week later, on December 6.
As part of the deal struck at the meeting, regular testing of teachers and students will be implemented. Also, it was agreed that there would be a month’s freeze on opening up additional parts of the economy, aside from a few pilot programs.
“Principals and teachers are prepared to open the various educational institutions and, together with the health authorities, we will increase the scope of tests for students and teaching staff in order to maintain health,” Education Minister Yoav Gallant wrote on Facebook early Tuesday. “To you, our dearest students, all that remains is to pack your school bag.”
The cabinet also approved running a pilot program to reopen malls, the regulations for which were approved on Tuesday.
“The pilot will be launched to open 15 malls for seven days in preparation for opening all the malls in Israel,” Finance Minister Israel Katz tweeted early Tuesday in explanation.
Later in the day, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Transportation Minister Miri Regev reportedly agreed to authorize the opening of outdoor markets, as well. Also, Edelstein and Culture and Sport Minister Chili Tropper reportedly agreed to a plan to authorize the opening of a handful of major museums in the coming days. Among the museums slated to open are the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
Fifth- and sixth-graders returned to their classrooms on Tuesday. Edelstein greeted students at a school in Givat Shmuel.
“Coming to school and seeing that, after a long break, children in fifth and sixth grades return to school is definitely heartwarming,” the minister said. “What supports this joy is seeing the tests being done here and the parents’ personal consent that each of their boys and girls be tested. We have not seen one student cry.”
He said that “the virus does not take into account our priorities, it affects everyone. Therefore, when too many things are opened at once – the disease also reaches schools and travels across the city, and the end we already know.”
Edelstein said the cabinet finally made a decision that reflects the “correct priorities” by opening schools above all else.
So far, reports by health officials have shown that the opening of preschools and elementary schools has not led to a spike in infection. However, the same officials have said that caution would need to be exercised as older kids go to school.
Speaking Monday with The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication, Maariv, Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy said that “returning to school, especially the older ages, could be contagious.” But he said that the danger was outweighed by the “higher value” of educating the country’s youth.
The ministerial committee on declaring restricted zones approved late Monday a decision to place two more Arab towns under lockdown: Majd el-Kurum and Kfar Manda. It also put Nazareth and Isfahan under lockdown until November 26 and extended the closures on Kalansuwa and Bukata until November 27.
According to data presented at the cabinet meeting by the National Security Council, nearly 47% of all new infections in Israel in the past week were within Arab society. Similarly, 60% of all infections among school children are within that sector.
The ministers will discuss new digital surveillance tracking, possible new restrictions to reduce infection, increasing fines and efforts needed to prepare the public for coronavirus vaccination at their next cabinet meeting, a statement disseminated Tuesday morning by the Prime Minister’s Office said.