Coronavirus czar said on Monday he believes that kindergartens around the country could reopen as soon as Sunday, as the government is mulling easing the nationwide lockdown.
Prof. Ronnie Gamzu's statements came a day after Health Ministry's Head of Public Health Services Sharon Elrai-Price said it's unlikely schools and kindergartens will reopen on Sunday since the infection rate still does not meet the ministry's criteria.
Gamzu told Ynet in an interview that preschool educational facilities are "least dangerous" when it comes to infection rates within the education system. "This will also allow parents to return to work and provide for their families.”
He added that first and second grades could also return to in-class studies as soon as next week, directly contradicting the Health Ministry's outline for the lockdown exit strategy.
"We want studies to resume as soon as possible. This is one of the most important components of society, along with economics and commerce. This comes long before anything else, including leisure, restaurant or pleasure,” Gamzu said.
The professor added, however, that "red" cities and communities with high infection rates will remain under lockdown, with kindergartens remaining closed. “Red cities should remain closed,” said Gamzu. “Other cities need to come out of the closure gradually, step by step, wisely but with consideration for education and economics.”
The chairman of the Education Committee, Blue & White MK Ram Shefa, said his party will backs the czar on the issue and will "demand the return of preschools as early as Sunday during coronavirus cabinet meeting ... More than 640,000 households desperately need it."
Yaniv Bar Or, the chair of the Private Daycare Centers Union, said despite the announcement, make private kindergartens and daycare centers will not be able to reopne without government's financial aid.
“We have already warned about our fear that we will be unable to reopen without compensation from the state," he said. "The [private] kindergartens and preschools will not be able to afford the expenses. We went into a second lockdown without the state releasing an outline for compensation. We, again, warn the private daycare centers are collapsing.”
Keren Ohana-Ives, the chair of the National Union of Private Kindergartens in Israel, added that another prevalent problem is the lack of participation of educational organizations in the government's decision-making process. “We have no idea how and when the education system will reopen. We listen to the news and see the tweets during the day. The staff need to be brought back from their unpaid leave, to clean, to tidy up, to talk to the children.”
In addition, prof. Gamzu also addressed the recent data, which shows that most red cities in Israel have a predominantly ultra-Orthodox population, and added that among the localities with the highest infection rate, there are currently almost no Arab communities.
“This means the hard work the residents had done saved people and reduced the infection rate,” Gamzu said. “Whether its public leaders - like me - or political, or religious leaders. We all have a role, the public looks to us and eventually does what we say. It’s all a matter of saying the right thing.”