Israel marks six-month record with 8,646 new daily COVID infections

Written by on August 17, 2021

Israel marked a six-month record in the number of daily coronavirus infections Tuesday morning as the Health Ministry reported 8,646 new cases in the last 24 hours.

The ministry also said that there were 40 new serious cases, bringing the total number to 499. Some 6.2% of the people screened tested positive. 

The news comes as more of the country turns from green to orange and red. There are 49 red cities, according to the Health Ministry’s website.

In total, over 55,000 people are currently sick with corona in Israel. The state will soon reach one million people who have been infected with the virus since the pandemic began in early 2020. 

On Monday night, the government decided that students in grades 8-12 who live in “red” cities with high infection rates and where at least 70% of other students in their class are not vaccinated will have to learn online and not in schools.

The new policy was made in a joint announcement by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton. They said that 70% of students will be determined by combining those students who are vaccinated with those who have recovered from the virus and who tested positive for having antibodies against it.

In red cities where at least 70% of students are vaccinated or recovered, frontal learning will continue.

Israelis wearing masks crowd the Jerusalem light rail, October 2020. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)Israelis wearing masks crowd the Jerusalem light rail, October 2020. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Younger grades will be subject to the Magen Hinuch or “Education Shield” program, which requires that unvaccinated students be tested every week in schools in red and orange cities to help detect infection early. 

The Health Ministry said that it will designate the color of municipalities each week on Wednesday.

School is slated to start on September 1, with the government and education system working to enable this to happen. However, on Monday, Health Minister Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash warned again that “if we do not see a slowdown in morbidity, we will reach a situation where we must postpone the start of the year.”

Last week, the Education and Health ministries shared their five-tiered plan for keeping children safe, which includes serological and rapid antigen testing and the Magen Hinuch program. In addition, a special “Green Class” outline is meant to allow students to stay in school if they are negative for the virus even after they were in contact with a classmate who was found to be infected. 

The Education Ministry has said that it expects around 5,000 students to be diagnosed with coronavirus once the school year starts. One week after the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) schools opened, the ministry reported a 130% jump in the number of infected haredi students compared to its report at the beginning of the month.

Finally, the ministries are requiring all students to wear masks nearly all the time when learning indoors, except during exams and gym classes.

Bennett plans to make a strong push over the next two weeks to get more 12- to 15-year-olds vaccinated before the start of the school year. 

Currently, around 38% of these students have been inoculated. 

On Friday, Horowitz said that he would push to ensure students can vaccinate at school, going against strongly-worded statements made by the Education minister. The government has not concluded discussions on the subject, but health officials connected to the debate have said it is likely that vaccination will be offered before or after school and, of course, with parental consent.

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