Coronavirus: Some children back to school, some malls open defying gov’t

Daily cases decrease again and stood at 5,540 on Wednesday * Gantz calls on Netanyahu to convene the cabinet to discuss green label

Schools reopen after third national coronavirus lockdown, Feb. 11, 2020 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
Schools reopen after third national coronavirus lockdown, Feb. 11, 2020
Close to half a million schoolchildren returned to school on Thursday within the framework approved by the government to gradually reopen the country, as the number of coronavirus daily cases decreased substantially for the second day in a row.  
In the meantime, some commercial activities decided to defying the regulations and open, while a cabinet meeting that was set to take place on Thursday to discuss the matter appeared likely to be postponed until next week.
Only daycares and grades 1-4 in cities that meet a set of criteria that include low infection rate and high vaccination rate have been allowed to reopen, leaving some two million Israeli students at home.
While none of the Israeli biggest cities qualified, the Health and Education ministries allowed municipalities to return children to classrooms in individual neighborhoods that meet the criteria. However, late Wednesday night, Jerusalem’s mayor Moshe Lion retracted his decision to allow schools to reopen in some areas in the capital lamenting unclarity in the guidelines.
Some 5,540 were found positive to the coronavirus on Wednesday, or 7.5% of about 76,000 tests performed, according to a Thursday morning update by the Health Ministry. The number marks a decrease of about 500 cases from the previous day.
Of those infected, 1,027 were in serious condition and 315 were on ventilators. The death toll rose to 5,265 overnight.
While the infection rate of the general population is decreasing, health officials expressed concerned over the rise morbidity in the Arab sector, and speculated that it might have been caused by an outbreak of the new highly contagious South African variant, sources in the Health Ministry told Maariv. Specific tests to detect the mutation are being carried out, they added.
Also on Thursday, the Israel Commerce Forum petitioned the High Court of Justice against selective enforcement of coronavirus regulation, after the police started to give fines to several malls and stores around the country that decided to reopen defying the restrictions. The organization argued that authorities turned a blind eye to mass gatherings and openings that happened in the ultra-Orthodox sector.
While the government is still weighing the next steps to reopen the country’s economy, many businesses have started to welcome again customers under the “green label” outline.
The green label, also referred to as green passport, is the document that the government intend to grant to those who are at least a week after the second injection of the coronavirus vaccine or those who recovered from the disease to allow them access to various events, location and activities, including restaurants, cultural venues and hotels.
According to the Health Ministry’s recommendation, stores, malls and other businesses are to be allowed to open under this outline only once Israel reaches three million people vaccinated with the second dose of the vaccine, less than 900 seriously ill patients and an R number under 1. The first two criteria are not expected to be met until near the end of the month.
A detail plan for the green label has yet to be define. Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to convene the meeting Thursday to move forward with reopening the country.
While in the first discussion the authorities appeared to be oriented to give a temporary green status also to those who undergo a test and are found negative, several health official including Minister Yuli Edelstein said that they are not oriented to that in order to encourage people to get vaccinated.
Moreover, the government is also considering passing legislation allowing employers the right to deny access to the workplace to employees who were not vaccinated, as well as oblige teachers to get inoculated.
Some 2,3 million Israelis, about 25% of the population, have already received both shots of the vaccine, and about 3.7 million at least the first. Almost 140,000 individuals were inoculated on Wednesday marking a slight decrease from the previous days, although the number remains very distant from the record 230,000 shots administered on January 31.
In order to reach more people, Clalit, the largest healthcare provider in the country, announced Thursday that starting from Sunday it will start to carry out vaccinations in workplaces with a high number of employees, like factories. The Israel Aerospace Industries announced they would be among the first companies to take part in the initiative.