Israel's coronavirus cabinet Tuesday voted unanimously to reopen all schools in communities with low coronavirus infection rate within the next two weeks.
Following an eight-hour long debate, ministers decided students in grades 7-12, who have still not gone back to in-class studies, will be allowed to return to schools in "green" and "yellow" communities that have a relatively low coronavirus infection rate.
According to Education Minister Yoav Gallant's outline, high schools will reopen as soon as Sunday, with middle schools resuming in-class studies a week later, on Dec. 6. Both students and teachers will be routinely tested for COVID-19 to avoid another outbreak. The outline also says students in grades 7-12 will study in small groups with in-class studies taking place at least two days a week.
The decision to reopen schools is an achievement for Galant, who managed to convince Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept the outline, despite the prime minister's reservations and fears about a new coronavirus outbreak.
"The government did the right thing and put education as first priority," said Galant after the cabinet vote. "Principals and teachers are prepared to reopen the educational institutions and along with health authorities, we will increase the scope of testing for students and teaching staff, to maintain their health."
Ministers also approved a pilot for reopening of commercial shopping centers. The plan is set to encompass 15 malls across Israel. It is set to begin Thursday and continue for a week in an effort to help officials form a long-term outline.
During the meeting, a proposal was raised to find a way to obligate citizens to download the "HaMagan 2" contact tracing app to their phones, but it was decided to first hold a debate about the legal aspects of such a motion first.
Both Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit objected to the move, with the Blue & White minister warning it will be "a dangerous slope to Big Brother."
Finance and health officials objected to the proposal on the basis that the app is apparently not reliable enough.
Following the coronavirus cabinet meeting, officials also approved a five-day lockdown of the northern Arab towns of Kafr Manda and Majd al-Krum due to increased infection in those areas, with the closure of the Arab town of Araba extended until Nov. 29.
The Health Ministry Tuesday morning reported that 943 new coronavirus cases have been diagnosed Monday, the highest daily increase since October 22.
The sudden climb is attributed to increased testing, with 53,191 tests and a relatively low 1.8% positivity rate.
The death toll since the start of the pandemic stands at 2,811.
Out of the 8,791 patients currently battling the virus, 275 are in serious condition, with 120 connected to ventilators.