Some 12,000 ultra-Orthodox students have contracted coronavirus in the last month, a Health Ministry official overseeing the ultra-Orthodox sector said on Monday as he feared that reopening the sector's education system could lead to a further increase in infections.
According to the head of the ultra-Orthodox desk at Israel's coronavirus taskforce Magen Israel, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Roni Numa, that youths between the ages 10 and 16 make up the age group with most morbidity in the Haredi sector.
This group mainly consists of high-school-age yeshiva students who attend institutions with boarding school conditions where they study in small groups, also known as "capsules", and their younger counterparts whose educational frameworks are not permitted to open due to coronavirus restrictions and operate illegally.
However, Numa expressed cautious optimism as the number of new cases in the sector was stabilizing
"The curve is stabilizing in the ultra-Orthodox sector," Numa said. "Within 48-72 hours, we will know whether this leads to a decrease [in infections] or we will see an increase again."
He estimated that about 15% of all ultra-Orthodox educational institutions are currently operating and that the sector's leaders will struggle to speak out in favor of keeping them close.
"Only a small number [of institutions] is still operating and but more are certain to open as well if we don’t stop it," Numa said. "I do not deny it. We work against it through education and enforcement."
According to Numa, the percentage of coronavirus tests returning positive in the ultra-Orthodox sector reached a whopping 22.1% of all tests, compared to 9.2% in the general population.
Additionally, the sector's response to the national COVID-19 vaccination drive was underwhelming compared to the world-leading figures seen in the general population, which Numa attributed to fake news among ultra-Orthodox communities, with the lowest turnout recorded among young women in the fertility age.
"To make it clear, the vaccine does not pose any risk to women in the age of fertility. It's a position back by experts and gynecologists in Israel and around the world," Numa added. " "These false rumors, spread by irresponsible parties, are what causes this challenge among young women."
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry reported Monday evening 7,098 new cases of coronavirus have been detected since midnight.
Israel's COVID-19 death toll rose to 4,040 fatalities since the outbreak of the pandemic.
There were 81,532 active coronavirus carriers across the country, 1,161 of them were hospitalized in serious condition and a record-high 292 patients were on ventilators.