5,500 new coronavirus cases, as gov’t rules to close schools Thursday

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“I request that you accept the professional recommendation and do not allow schools to open tomorrow,” Prof. Ronni Gamzu wrote.

FIRST DAY BACK at Tel Aviv’s Gabrieli Carmel School, September 1, 2020 (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

FIRST DAY BACK at Tel Aviv’s Gabrieli Carmel School, September 1, 2020

(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

Israel’s school system will close Thursday, the government ruled on Wednesday, as the infection rate hit a peak: 5,523 new cases in a single day.

Schools were originally supposed to shut down on Friday. Special education and programs for youth-at-risk will continue to operate.

The move came at the request of coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu, who sent a letter to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Education Minister Yoav Gallant on Tuesday asking them to close schools immediately.

“The government made the wrong decision, against professional recommendations,” Gamzu said in his letter to the ministers. “Moreover, we are seeing a spike in infection in general and specifically among the general public.”

One out of 10 people who were tested for the novel coronavirus on Tuesday tested positive, the Health Ministry reported Monday. There were 535 people in serious condition, including 138 on ventilators. The death toll spiked to 1,147.

According to the commissioner, the spike is particularly centered on school-aged children, especially those 10 and up.

“I request that you accept the professional recommendation and do not allow schools to open tomorrow, with all the complications that entails,” Gamzu continued. He said that if need be, only grades five and up could shutter early.

“Behind this recommendation stand all relevant professionals,” he said.

The push for closing schools early came only three days before the country is supposed to close down until October 11, anyway.

The decision to implement the closure came as hospitals raised red flags, fearing an inability to treat the growing number of patients in serious condition. As of Wednesday morning, there were 1,153 people being treated in the hospital.

The committee released throughout the day on Tuesday a list of actions that are permissible during the lockdown, most of which were not allowed during the spring closure.

It is allowed to get alternative medicine or psychological treatments; protest or go to court; attend a funeral of up to 20 people; workout alone at any distance from home; and visit the beach without entering the water. Shuk Mahaneh Yehuda will stay open, though its restaurants and bars will close.

Moreover, divorced parents can transfer their children between ex-spouses, a babysitter is entitled to come to the home in which she works and people can care for their pet’s essential needs.

Finally, women can go to immerse in the mikveh, cantors and shofar blowers can travel to carry out the commandment and the four Sukkot species can be sold, since they are now being labeled as essential products.

Since details of the government’s decision on the lockdown have been published, there has been tremendous push back.

“On the one hand, whole industries are closed that should not be closed, from rural tourism to shops in an open space, and on the other hand, a woman can immerse in the mikveh and the four species are considered essential products,” said MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid). “No one understands that. No one believes it.”

At the same time, Health Ministry officials said they are worried that with so many things now permissible that were not allowed during the first closure, as ministers hacked away at the restrictions to make them more bearable for an already defiant public, the lockdown will be less effective.

All of the decisions made by the ministerial committee must still be approved by the larger cabinet before they can take effect at the end of the week.

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