Schools in red city Beitar Illit opened in defiance of coronavirus cabinet

Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu strongly urged the cabinet on Monday to vote to keep all schools in red cities closed.

A general view shows the Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit in the West Bank April 7, 2019 (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
A general view shows the Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit in the West Bank April 7, 2019
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
Schools in the mainly ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit opened on Tuesday, although the town has been designated a red city where the coronavirus infection rates are especially high and the schools were supposed to stay closed, according to the coronavirus cabinet’s Monday night decision.
Another ultra-Orthodox city, Bnei Brak, was added to the list of red cities on Tuesday evening. It has had consistently high infection numbers since the onset of the crisis. In response to the announcement, Bnei Brak Mayor Avraham Rubinstein said that “we will heal the city. We are making an improvement.”
Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu strongly urged the cabinet on Monday to vote to keep all schools in red cities closed, even though Education Minister Yoav Gallant said that he wanted to see all schools open on Tuesday.
“It could be that the Education Minister will be justified in the end, but this is not about who is right,” Gamzu said during a press briefing Monday afternoon. “We manage risks, and this is not a risk to take.”
Beitar Illit’s school system is privately operated, but the schools are still subject to government decisions.
Calcalist reported that Beitar Illit residents were told by city council representatives that schools would be open on Tuesday and spoke to a number of parents who sent their children to school.
The municipality insisted publicly that the schools there were obeying the ruling of the coronavirus cabinet and that no studies were taking place. But the municipality also said in a statement, ”We are working to find out how Beitar Illit became a red city overnight, although the data clearly shows that it is not red by definition.” City council officials said they were outraged at the decision to place the city on the red cities list and claimed discrimination.
Beitar Illit Mayor Meir Rubinstein sent a letter to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein demanding explanations as to why his town was designated as red.
“As of today, there are 187 [coronavirus] patients in Beitar Illit, and about half of them are at a [quarantine] hotel, while there are communities with many more patients than we have and have not been designated as red,” Rubinstein wrote.
He added that, “The percentage of positive tests in Beitar Illit is currently 11.5%. While in many other cities, which were not included under the definition of ‘red city’, the number is 15%. I would like to understand the calculations made by the Health Ministry,” and called upon officials to change his city’s classification immediately.
As the schools grappled with coronavirus restrictions, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Gamzu made a joint appearance at a military center set up to investigate and halt chains of infection. Gantz thanked Gamzu for his work, saying that they had reached the second stage of a plan to collaborate to eradicate the virus and Gamzu appealed to the public to cooperate with the investigators, saying, “This is how you stop the virus.”
On Monday, 2,180 tested positive for the virus out of 30,853 tests carried out and 118,122 Israelis have been diagnosed with COVID-19 overall. Of these, there are currently 20,960 active cases, with 415 that are characterized as being in serious condition.
There are currently 117 intubated. The death toll from the virus is 956, up 11 from the previous day.


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