Israelis have returned to an almost normal routine in recent days, only to discover the pandemic is far from over.
By Rina Bassist
Thousands of students in the towns of Jerusalem, Hadera and Beersheba on June 1 were sent home to isolate after teachers in their schools were diagnosed with the coronavirus. Education Minister Yoav Galant said any school found with active cases of the virus must immediately close down.
Israel’s health authorities are expressing concern in recent days over a surge in coronavirus infections all across the country, especially in schools and preschools. According to recent data, some 5,000 students, teachers and staff are now isolating at home. Thirteen students and teachers were diagnosed with coronavirus on June 1 alone, making the total number of 155 school and preschool children, and 39 teachers, to be diagnosed with the virus. All in all, the Education Ministry had shuttered seven preschools and six schools.
Since the pandemic began, 285 people have died of the coronavirus in Israel. But the number of infected cases decreased significantly in May. On May 8, the Health Ministry reported there were fewer than 5,000 people sick with the virus and the number of Israelis recovering from COVID-19 continued to outpace the rate of new infections. Subsequently, the government started easing restrictions. On May 14, the office of the prime minister announced that most of the schools were expected to return to full operation on the week after. Beaches, swimming pools and some restaurants have also reopened recently, and bars will resume activity next week.
Still, the recent spike in infections indicates that Israelis have dropped too quickly rules of social distancing and other hygiene restrictions. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on May 31 that the number of new people diagnosed with the coronavirus had risen fivefold on the day before, stating, "[May 30] test results showed positive diagnoses have risen fivefold from 0.5% to 2.5% — 28 positive diagnoses out of 1,012 tests.’’ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned subsequently that the coronavirus pandemic has not disappeared, and in the coming days he would reexamine another round of lockdowns.
In another sign of authorities fearing a second coronavirus wave, the Ministry of Health decided to significantly increase the number of coronavirus tests, reopening four drive-through testing stations across the country.