Coronavirus crisis: ‘Stop confusing students,’ says youth council


Police crackdown on those who violate health regulations * Students struggle ahead of matriculation exams

The entrance to the Paula Rehavia high school in Jerusalem, May 31, 2020. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

The entrance to the Paula Rehavia high school in Jerusalem, May 31, 2020.

(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Police are cracking down on Israelis who are not wearing masks in public spaces and on businesses that are open but not adhering to the Health Ministry’s Purple Ribbon standards.

According to Police, some 381 tickets and fines were administered over the last day – four times the number handed out on an average day last week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the National Security Council to help cops and inspectors step up enforcement of Health Ministry regulations, such as wearing masks and maintaining two meters distances, in order to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus and to keep the economy open.

Some 175 Israelis were diagnosed with coronavirus in the last day, bringing the total number of active cases to 2,869, among them 31 in serious condition, including 22 on ventilators. So far, 299 people have died.

Similarly, the number of Israel Defense Soldiers (IDF) currently self-isolating due to potential exposure to the coronavirus currently stands at 1,058. As of right now there are 26 verified cases of coronavirus among IDF personnel. 

But senior health experts explain that it is not just the numbers that are worrisome, but rather how widespread the infection is across the country. According to the Health Ministry, there are sick people in more than 100 cities and towns.

On the other hand, the spike still does seem to have started as a result of opening up schools and preschools in full last month. As such, the average age of people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 is lower than it was during the first peak.

In the last 10 days, 11.2% of infections were children nine and younger, 23% children between the ages of 10 and 19, and 57% adults under 59 – perhaps parents or teachers. In contrast, only 14.4% of people infected are over the age of 60 (7.3% between 60 and 80).

During the first peak, 18% of infections were in people over 60. Older people and people with chronic illness are at greater risk of experiencing serious symptoms or dying from the disease.

Israeli school children have had a challenging year, first moving to online learning as the schools shut down to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Then, learning in capsules.

Now, thousands of children are in isolation after classmates or teachers became infected with COVID-19. The Education Ministry reported on Wednesday night that there are 433 sick students and teachers, and 23,969 in isolation. Some 144 schools are closed.

As such, student in grades 11 and 12 are unsure if they will succeed at their matriculation exams.

Israel’s National Student and Youth Council has called on the Education Ministry to “stop confusing the students” and to issue clear guidelines on how students in grades 11 and 12 should study and prepare for their matriculation exams in the shadow of coronavirus.

“In recent days, a number of inquiries have come to us regarding the difficulty created by the coronavirus crisis,” the council said in a statement, highlighting students who were forced into isolation or schools that were closed, thereby leaving them no teacher to help them study for their exams.

Known as the “Bagrut,” Israeli matriculation exams are used for assessing the knowledge of students on subjects covered in high school and can impact their placement in the IDF and then college.

Council chairman Nimrod Peperni noted that it was also brought to the council’s attention that some students were being penalized for not attending school after the Education Ministry said that attendance was voluntary during the coronavirus crisis. He said that students’ grades were being impacted by their failure to attend, including those who are afraid of becoming infected and those who cannot come because they or someone in their family is high-risk.

At the same time, it is still unclear when the school year will end for children in younger grades, as Teachers’ Association chairman Ran Erez has still not signed an agreement to add nine days to the school year to make up for some of the school days lost to the first coronavirus peak. Because he has not signed, neither will Yaffa Ben-David, the head of the Israeli Teachers Union, who is responsible for extending elementary schools.

Erez has reportedly committed verbally, but only next week are the two expected to meet and finalize the decision. If they sign, school will end on July 13.

Already, the National Security Council is planning for what schools and the rest of Israel will look like in the fall and winter, when many health experts have predicted Israel will see a second wave alongside seasonal flu.

Plexiglass between student desks and rapid epidemiological tracking are just two of the efforts that are being considered, according to a plan prepared by the National Security Council.

The document, which was obtained by the Hebrew website N12, outlines various steps that would need to be taken in preparation for a second wave.

According to N12, the plan includes increasing the country’s ability to track where sick people have been and with whom they have interacted in order to quickly stop the infection chain. It also addresses at-risk populations, such as the elderly, and discusses the need to continually review the situation through the Health Ministry’s Magen Avot v’Imahot (Guarding Fathers and Mothers) program.

The Bedouin and foreign workers communities are specifically highlighted as needing extra attention since they have had high infection rates.

Regarding the education system, it calls on schools and the Education Ministry to begin preparing for the school year that opens September 2020 and raises the idea of Plexiglas partitions between student desks.

N12 said that the document also highlights the need for continued dialogue with countries that are leading the fight against the virus and learning from them about how they face various challenges of returning to routine. On Wednesday, Netanyahu spoke to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and again discussed the potential areas in which India and Israel could expand their cooperation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, including research and development efforts in the fields of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.



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