First primary school classes reopen, street stores stay closed

Half a million Grades 1-4 children trooped back to school on Sunday after being kept home for six weeks of lockdown. They returned to class after the surging coronavirus infection figures of August established a downward trend. Serious cases dropped below 400 for the first time in weeks.

Anxious parents waited outside the gates and watched the kids in masks joyously enter the building for classes that had been scrupulously downsized to 18-20 each, in an effort to prevent the schools becoming a fresh hotbed of coronavirus infection. Extra teaching staff were mobilized for the split classes from among retired teachers, volunteers, parents.

Pupils of the higher 5-12 Grades will not be back at school for several weeks. They will continue to receive remote lessons until the outcome of the first two exit stages from lockdown are evaluated. The second stage approved to go into effect on Sunday by the coronavirus cabinet is part of a careful six-stage exit from Israel’s second lockdown which indeed curbed the fast-spreading coronavirus.

The ministers also ruled that groups of up to 10 may pray inside synagogues, 20 outside – likewise weddings and other celebrations. Competitive sporting activities for athletes, children and teens are now permitted to renew operations. Open-air heritage sites, historical sites, national parks and nature preserves may reopen to the public. Beauty parlors and hairdressers may at long last receive clients, under strict health rules, and driving lessons can restart with no more than three individuals in a vehicle. Guest houses may now host single vacationing families.

After a heated dispute, the coronavirus cabinet decided to keep street stores shuttered for another week up to Nov. 8. Shopkeepers burned tires in Tel Aviv, along with other groups protesting their covid-enforced idleness and financial ruin, notably actors and musicians. Nonetheless, the third stage of the exit process will only roll forward in two weeks depending on the pandemic infection figures continuing to curve down. An uptick will result in renewed closures.

On Sunday, the Health Ministry reported 399 patients currently in serious condition – the lowest in weeks – of whom 176 are on ventilators. Four deaths on Saturday raised the fatality toll in eight months to 2,541.

Also on Sunday, the Israel Biological Institute launched first clinical trials on humans of its Brilife covid vaccine at two hospitals: the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan and Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. The first volunteer is Segev Harel, a student of 26, from Kibbutz Sde Nehemia in northern Israel.

Due to new thinking in Europe, lockdown restrictions going into effect this week in the UK, France and Germany exclude schools, which are to stay open without pause – albeit under stringent health guidelines with regard to masks, distancing and hygiene. The European Center for Disease prevention found that children accounted for fewer than 5pc of reported coronavirus cases in 27 member-countries.

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