All classes approved to open Sunday, but parents and teachers still unsure

Trains will wait until June 1 * Beaches to open Wednesday * Only 50 people intubated

Israeli students at the Orot Etzion school in Efrat wear protective face masks as they return to school for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus, May 3, 2020 (photo credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)
Israeli students at the Orot Etzion school in Efrat wear protective face masks as they return to school for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus, May 3, 2020
(photo credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved plans to reopen the education system in full beginning Sunday in cities with low rates of infection, gradually introducing back grades four through 10 to a full five-day-a-week schedule.
Classes will resume in accordance with the readiness of the local authorities, a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office said, leaving parents once again uncertain if their children would have a framework on Sunday.
At the same time, parents are not required to send their kids to school.
“The chance of opening on Sunday is nil,” Shai Hajaj, head of the Merhavim Regional Council, told Israeli media. “There is not enough equipment and at least three days of preparation are needed. You have to worry about cleaning the classrooms and facilities, you need to buy masks and hygiene kits... to check which teachers are high-risk and whether they can come back to work. In short, there is too much to do.”
For those schools that do return, the Prime Minister’s Office said this will include all institutions from birth to grade 12 that are not in restricted areas. In those areas, the morbidity rate will be re-assessed on June 1.
At school, good hygiene will be strictly enforced, including regular hand washing and maintaining a distance of two meters between students. Younger students will wear masks in open spaces and during breaks, and older children will wear them even while learning.
If coronavirus is detected at a school, it will be closed and anyone who was near the patient will enter 14 days of isolation, in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines.
There were only 3,793 active cases of coronavirus in Israel on Thursday, including 50 people on ventilators. So far, 265 people have died.
The decision comes in the aftermath of a last-minute decision earlier this month to open schools for children in first through third grade. Many local authorities rebelled and refused to open schools when the government announced late on a Friday afternoon that schools could open Sunday.
At the same time, other municipalities in areas where there has been slim to no infection have been pushing to operate their educational institutions in full immediately.
On the other hand, Israel Railways will only begin running trains on June 1. The announcement came a day after the public became once again misled, this time from a spat between the Transportation and Health ministries.
On Wednesday, the Transportation Ministry announced that limited intercity service would begin on Sunday, after having shut down in March to help slow the spread of the virus. However, a few hours later, Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov corrected the announcement and said that the move had not actually received final authorization from his ministry. Rather, he said, the Health Ministry had only approved the framework for resuming services but not the timing.
Bar Siman Tov apologized for the misunderstanding, but said the country was “still not at the stage where we can allow gatherings in such great numbers.”
Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich tweeted copies of two letters he had received, one from Bar Siman Tov and the other from Bar Siman Tov’s deputy, Itamar Grotto. The second letter, he claimed, provided authorization to restart train services. Nonetheless, the Health Ministry’s decision was not reversed.
On Wednesday, Israel’s beaches are expected to open, Interior Minister Arye Deri said Thursday, asking local authorities to prepare the beaches in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines over the next few days.
The Health Ministry’s ill management of the coronavirus conflict has started to surface in recent days, including in two reports that were issued on Thursday. The first, published by the Mossad and the IDF, said that the state acted poorly in procuring equipment to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
The report noted that the Health Ministry was attempting to procure equipment, such as ventilators, personal protective equipment and masks, at the same time as the defense establishment, which led to “competition for identical inventories and rising prices.”
A final report by the Knesset Coronavirus Committee also showed serious failures in the management of the crisis.
“The coronavirus crisis was poorly managed,” committee chair MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid-Telem) said Thursday, “which has serious economic and social consequences that we will face for a long time. It is essential... we be better prepared in the future.”
The report mirrored the IDF’s, showing that despite recruiting support from the Mossad and Defense Ministry, essential supplies were not effectively acquired. It said only 426 new ventilators made it to Israel before May, despite promises of thousands, and not nearly enough PPE.
But it also showed that even if the ventilators had come and the number of patients who needed them had reached the 5,000 that Bar Siman Tov expected, there would not have been enough nursing staff to manage them. The country only has enough trained nurses to manage 3,000 intubated patients at a time, the report showed.
The committee recommended training medical professionals and establishing local production of ventilators, tests and other equipment ahead of a second wave of coronavirus, which many medical professionals believe will hit this winter.
The committee called out the ministry for never reaching the promised 30,000 coronavirus tests per day and not crossing the 10,000 per day threshold in May at all. On Thursday, the Health Ministry reported that it had conducted only 8,156 on Thursday.
In addition, it showed, that there was no real improvement in reducing the time between when tests were taken and people were informed of their positive or negative results.
The committee recommended that a national crisis authority be formed to deal with any second wave that would work in collaboration with public health officials. The authority would be responsible for planning and establishing a coordinated response and delivering information in a transparent and well-defined way.