Coronavirus: Our goal is a normal school year, health minister says

In the past few days, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz have been meeting with representatives of the industries to which the green pass is expected to apply – such as culture venues and gyms – in order to receive their input on how to minimize any negative impact on businesses. Speaking in a press briefing, Horowitz said hotels are also going to function under the green pass.

One of the question marks about the outline is whether the tests will be funded by the state or by the individual citizen, especially in the case of children who are too young to be vaccinated.

Starting from next week, rapid testing stations are going to be available around the country, operated by the Magen David Adom. Rapid tests – or antigen tests – are considered slightly less accurate than PCR tests, but they are cheaper and offer results within minutes. The minister said that those for children are going to be funded by the country.

Tests for children within the framework of the education system will be covered.

“We are preparing to open the school year in the full normal way,” Horowitz said. “This is our goal, more tests and less restrictions.”

Starting from next week, Israelis are also going to be able to buy at home tests in pharmacies.

The cabinet will also cover the situation at Ben Gurion.

Some 10% of the new cases are people who returned from abroad, in spite of the fact that everyone is required to present a negative PCR test before boarding (in addition to the one that all travelers must take upon their arrival in Israel before leaving Ben-Gurion).

Earlier on Wednesday, Health Ministry’s Director General Prof. Nachman Ash said in an interview to Ynet that they are working on two proposals, either to demand everyone who flies back to enter isolation or to expand the list of countries that are banned or that require also vaccinated and recovered individuals to enter isolation – which is already going to be expanded on Friday.

While the former recommendation has appeared to be the one preferred by health officials, it has reportedly caused many disagreements within the members of the cabinet.

By Wednesday evening, Israeli media said that the proposal had already been rejected.

Also due to the disagreements between its members, a date and time for the cabinet meeting were only set on Wednesday for Thursday afternoon while initially the ministers were reportedly going to meet on Tuesday, then on Wednesday, then on Thursday morning.  

“We will go when they call us,” Ash told Ynet.

During the meeting last week, Bennett and Horowitz asked their colleagues to approve the return of the green pass for all indoors gatherings but their request was rejected and the cabinet approved similar requirements only for weddings and events where food is served – the so called Happy Badge.

Israel had not registered over 1,400 cases since March and the reproduction rate, or R – which measures how many people each virus carrier infects on average – has been steadily over 1 for the past few weeks, indicating that the outbreak continues to expand (on Wednesday it stood at 1.4).

In addition, some twenty people have succumbed to the virus in July. While the number is still only a fraction of the deaths registered at the peak of the pandemic in January, when dozens of people sometimes died of COVID in a single day – the figure is more than double the victims recorded in June.

On the other hand, the increase in serious morbidity has remained limited.

If around mid-June there were some 20 patients in serious conditions with less than 200 active cases in the whole country. As of Wednesday night, the number stood at 68 with some 9,000 active cases.

Also on Wednesday, The Jerusalem Post confirmed that Israelis over the age of 18 will soon be able to receive the Moderna coronavirus vaccine.

Starting July 28, health funds will be able to place orders for the Moderna vaccine, which will then be made available to eligible Israelis beginning August 1, according to a letter sent by the Health Ministry to the health funds. At that point, the Pfizer vaccine will only be administered to those under the age of 18, for whom the Moderna vaccine is not yet approved, and for people who are waiting on their second dose.

Later at night, opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that in the past several days he spoke with the heads of both Pfizer and Moderna, and that the government should start giving a third shot of the vaccine to the elderly.

Israel is currently the only country in the world administering a booster to immunocompromised patients – which has yet to be approved by the main health regulatory bodies in the world.

Since about half of the current cases are people who were fully vaccinated, as well as some 65% of the patients in serious conditions health officials and experts are examining the data to understand whether there is a decline in vaccine efficacy connected to the time elapsed from the shots.

Maayan Hoffman contributed to this report.

Read More:Coronavirus: Our goal is a normal school year, health minister says

2021-07-21 18:52:00

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