The Israeli government is expanding efforts to keep schools and the economy open at all costs, but says it is being hamstrung in those efforts by the nearly one million Israelis who still refuse the COVID-19 vaccine.
The government is also under heavy pressure to avoid a nationwide lockdown during Yom Kippur and Succot, despite the fact that the rate of new daily coronavirus infections remains high.
During a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai reportedly said that all public sector employees should be required to vaccinate. According to Israel’s N12 news portal, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett responded that his government has “run out of patience for those who refuse the vaccine.” See related: Bennett Slammed for “Shaming” Israelis Who Refuse COVID Vaccine
The cabinet meeting focused on Israeli public schools, which at present are operating under the policy that if anyone in or associated with a particular class is diagnosed as infected with COVID-19, the entire class must enter quarantine.
Due to this policy, just two weeks into the new school year some 154,000 Israeli students are presently in quarantine, as are 3,750 teachers and school staff.
Bennett and the rest of the cabinet approved Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton’s proposal that from next month, only infected students will enter quarantine, while their classmates will be required to take a coronavirus test and then be allowed to return immediately to studies.
To make this possible, Bennett has promised to improve and expand testing stations, which have been overwhelmed of late. Schools will also reportedly distribute more home test kits to students who need them.