Israel will no longer require school students to go into isolation after coming into contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced Thursday evening, as mounting infections stoked by the Omicron variant cripple the country's education system.
Flanked by Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, the premier said that every child will have to get tested biweekly using home test kits that will be provided by the state.
While this new policy, set to come into effect next Thursday, will provide students with a learning continuum, Bennett called on parents to act responsibly and not send sick children to school.
Local leaders praised the government for the move, which will help keep the Israeli economy open as many parents are compelled to stay home with their young children during the isolation period.
“We congratulate the prime minister, ministers and experts who have adopted the position of the local authorities and made education a priority,” said Modi'in-Maccabim-Re'ut Mayor Haim Bibas.
“We will continue to protect students and staff in the education system through home tests that will be provided to all schools and kindergartens. We believe that ending the endless isolation mandate will take us back to a sane routine."
"COVID has other symptoms, and our wonderful education system is fighting them," said Merhavim Regional Council Chairman Shay Hajaj. “The education system in Israel has been through one of the most difficult periods in its history in the past two years. The decision to abolish the isolation mandate will help create a COVID-suitable routine.”
The Education Ministry reported that about 200,000 educators and students were forced into quarantine in Israel's fifth wave of coronavirus infections.
Meanwhile, the national parent lobby said attendance in most educational institutions has dropped between 40% to 50%.