As schools further reopen following Israel's second nationwide lockdown, Education Minister Yoav Galant said Sunday he hopes to increase the number of daily coronavirus tests for faculty and students to 15,000.
The decision to allow high school students back into class, albeit for a couple of days a week - and for middle school students to join them next week - was taken last week by the so-called coronavirus cabinet.
The education and health ministries are working in cooperation Sheba Medical Center, Israel's largest hospital, to provide the rapid testing.
The Health Ministry on Sunday reported a 3.3% positivity rate in coronavirus tests conducted the day before, indicating an increase in the spread of the disease.
"The aim is to find carriers of the virus before symptoms appear. Once symptomatic, most people have already infected other," Galant said. "We are building capacity now and I believe we will reach 15,000 daily tests within a month."
High school students were being offered the tests before returning to class after more than two months at home with distance learning only.
"The responsibility to carry out the testing is in the hands of the Health Ministry which has not yet begun to do their spot checking," Galant said. "Though I am not responsible for the medical tests, I've taken upon myself to move things along."
Nonetheless, staff and students cannot be forced to take the test and many students have already said they would try to avoid being tested as they would prefer not to subject themselves to the discomfort of the nasal swab.
"Education must be a national priority," Galant said. "We see how other countries in Europe and elsewhere have decided to have schools open even while keeping businesses closed."
But keeping schools free of contagion depends on the cooperation of the public, the education minister said.
"If people don't behave responsibly, morbidity will increase," Galant said. "We are doing everything we can to keep schools disinfected and to keep contagion outside."
Galant said his aim is to keep schools open in cities with low morbidity, even if a third lockdown in imposed in Israel.
"That has been my position and the plan presented to the cabinet, I hope we do not have to put it to the test," he said.
Galant also said that efforts were continuing to supply computers to every single Israeli student.
"I believe we will have delivered new computers to 150,000 students by December," he said.