Coronavirus: Our goal is a normal school year, health minister says

The coronavirus cabinet is going to meet on Thursday afternoon, as the number of new cases in Israel continues to climb.

Among the topics the ministers are expected to discuss are the return of green pass outline and the situation at the airport, in order to counter what many experts by now call the fourth wave.

In light of the spike in cases – with 1,400 cases identified on Tuesday – a green pass outline is expected to be approved granting access to all gatherings only to individuals vaccinated, recovered or equipped with a negative test performed in the previous 72 hours.

In the past few days, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz have been meeting with representatives of the industries to which the green pass is expected to apply – such as culture venues and gyms – in order to receive their input on how to minimize any negative impact on businesses. Speaking in a press briefing, Horowitz said hotels are also going to function under the green pass.

One of the question marks about the outline is whether the tests will be funded by the state or by the individual citizen, especially in the case of children who are too young to be vaccinated.

Horowitz said that topic is still being examined.

Starting from next week, rapid testing stations are going to be available around the country, operate by the Magen David Adom. Rapid tests – or antigen tests – are considered slightly less accurate than PCR tests, but they are cheaper and offer results within minutes. The minister said that those for children are going to be funded by the country.

Tests for children within the framework of the education system will be covered.

“We are preparing to open the school year in the full normal way,” Horowitz said. “This is our goal, more tests and less restrictions.”

Starting from next week, Israelis are also going to be able to buy at home tests in pharmacies.

The cabinet will also cover the situation at Ben Gurion.

Some 10% of the new cases are people who returned from abroad, in spite of the fact that everyone is required to present a negative PCR test before boarding (in addition to the one that all travelers must take upon their arrival in Israel before leaving Ben-Gurion).

Earlier on Wednesday, Health Ministry’s Director General Prof. Nachman Ash said in an interview to Ynet that they are working on two proposals, either to demand everyone from fly back to enter isolation or to expand the list of countries that are banned or that require also vaccinated and recovered individuals to enter isolation – which is already going to be expanded on Friday.

While the former recommendation has appeared to be the one preferred by health official, it has reportedly caused many disagreements within the members of the cabinet.

A date and time for the meeting were only set on Wednesday for Thursday afternoon while initially the ministers were said to be supposed to meet on Tuesday, then on Wednesday, then on Thursday morning.  

“We will go when they call us,” Ash told Ynet.

According to Israeli media, the reason why organizing the meeting took longer than expected were disagreements among the ministers about where the country should go next, not only regarding the airport, but also the implementation of the green pass.

During the meeting last week, Bennett and Horowitz asked their colleagues to approve the return of the green pass for all indoors gatherings but their request was rejected and the cabinet approved similar requirements only for weddings and events where food is served – the so called Happy Badge.

Israel had not registered over 1,400 cases since March and the reproduction rate, or R – which measures how many people each virus carrier infects on average – has been steadily over 1 for the past few weeks, indicating that the outbreak continues to expand (on Wednesday it stood at 1.4).

In addition, some twenty people have succumbed to the virus in July. While the number is still only a fraction of the deaths registered at the peak of the pandemic in January, when dozens of people sometimes died of COVID in a single day – the figure is more than double the victims recorded in June.

On the other hand, the increase in serious morbidity has…

Read More: Coronavirus: Our goal is a normal school year, health minister says

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