Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held consultations on Monday with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Education Minister Yoav Galant, and Health Ministry experts and decided to keep the school system closed, even though the countrywide Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown officially ended Sunday.
The focus of the meeting was on the spread of the British COVID-19 mutation and its implications, bringing the government to decide to keep the school system closed.
“Consultations on the matter will continue,” Netanyahu’s office said, but did not provide a date for another meeting.
The UK, South African, and Los Angeles variants have been discovered in Israel. The UK variant has been blamed for an increased infection rate, dangerous infections in pregnant women, and a spike in illness among children.
The health experts fear that the opening of the school system will bring the spread of the dominant UK variant among the students, which may even cause deaths among children.
The closure of the school system is a de facto extension of the lockdown, as many parents cannot go back to work with their children at home.
Israel’s third COVID-19 lockdown officially ended on Sunday morning, while many of the restrictions remained in place and the infection rate in the country remained high.
After almost four weeks of a countrywide lockdown, the rate of new daily cases continues to be very high and has not decreased throughout the closure period. Health officials noted that the slight drop they saw in recent days has stopped and even reversed its course.
Over 3,480,600 Israelis have received the first dose of the Pfizer-developed COVID-19 vaccine, some 37.8% of the population.
The Ministry of Health updated Monday that it documented 4,560 new COVID-19 cases over the past day.
Of the 53,656 tests done on Sunday, a very high 8.8% returned positive.
A high number of 1,121 patients hospitalized with Corona are in serious condition, 316 of them are on life support.
5,129 Israelis have died of the virus since the outbreak in the country almost a year ago.