Mass Covid Swab Ahead of School Openings

View of a first grade classroom in Tzefas, the day before school starts, Tuesday. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Israel is conducting a nationwide COVID testing of schoolchildren under age 12, the day before school is scheduled to start on Wednesday.

In a last-minute push to prepare for in-classroom studies as the Delta variant surges, parents have been asked to test their kids at home. Kits were picked up from school are equipped with a module that shows results.

Children who are deemed COVID-free, must arrive for class with their declaration, while those who test positive are to enter quarantine right away.

Children with positive test results are supposed to register for a lab-processed PCR test to confirm the diagnosis. PCR tests are deemed more accurate, and in some very rare cases a home test kit may throw out a false positive.

“This program has great potential to reduce the extent of infection arriving in classrooms,” Prof. Miri Yemini, an expert in health and the education system, told The Times of Israel. “The idea is to identify undercover or asymptomatic COVID by getting all children of all ages tested, and getting parents to sign a document saying that the result was negative.”

“The concept relies on social obligation and solidarity, not law, and in a sense the success of the new year will be determined based on whether parents comply and perform home tests,” Yemini added.

The testing is part of an overall plan which includes masks and social distancing to reopen the schools as safely as possible, though officials foresee an uptick of infections after classes begin.

Coronavirus commissioner Salman Zarka told ToI earlier this month: “I can promise you that we will have more cases when school opens. When people gather again and again, this is how the virus passes from one to another.”

Teachers are now required to have Green Passes, which means they must be vaccinated or have recovered from the virus; or they can produce a negative result from a test performed in the last 72 hours, at their expense.

Teachers unions have strenuously objected to this, threatening legal action unless it is applied to all public sector employees equally.

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