Health official set to recommend to the cabinet to reopen schools only in "green" and "yellow" communities, indication low coronavirus infection rate, which would leave out most big cities in the country.
The government is set to convene on Wednesday evening to discuss the extension of the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, set to end Friday 7am, until next week.
Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Hezi Levi said him and the ministry will support the decision to extend the lockdown, due to the lack of an orderly exit strategy and the surging number of coronavirus cases across the country.
"We have recommended and will continue to recommend for the lockdown to last at least until midnight on Sunday, and then we will see,” said Prof. Hezi Levi. "If we step out [of lockdown], we'll do so slowly and in an orderly fashion."
Despite the ministry officials' reluctance to lift the restrictions, they are expected to support the reopening of kindergartens and schools for grades 1-4 and 11-12, but only in yellow and green municipalities where the coronavirus infection rates are low enough to allow lifting of some curbs.
The move would leave out most major cities, including Tel Aviv, Haifa and Be'er Sheva, which are all considered either red or orange.
The ministry is also expected to support the reopening of businesses working in a “one-on-one” format, as well as takeaway services from cafes and restaurants, although it is currently unclear if these recommendations are intended for the whole country or yellow and green areas.
The ministry, however, said they will vehemently oppose the reopening of trade, as well as the lifting restrictions that would allow more than five people to gather in a confined are and more than 10 people in open spaces.
"We are contending with very high infection rates,” Levi said. “We have 1,100-1,200 critically ill patients in the hospitals, including 200-300 ventilated… We want to lower the infection rate as much as we can.”
Levi estimated that 80-70% of all verified cases in Israel are carrying the more infectious British mutation, and has raised concerns that a new virus variant could evolve in Israel.
“Medicine and science say that the new variant can certainly develop anywhere, including in Israel," said Levi.
In the wake pof the declining turnout for vaccinations, the director-general ordered hospitals and HMOs to scrap the current age limit for receiving the vaccines and allow all those aged 16 and up to receive the shot starting Thursday.
Levi and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein have also instructed the vaccination drive to focus its efforts on those who are homebound and on people aged 50 and up.
This is due to recent data that showed that 74% of Israel’s seriously ill coronavirus patients are aged 60 and over, as well as 92% of all deceased - while 13% of all seriously ill patients are aged 50-59, as well as 5% of all deceased.