Israel Ending Quarantine for Asymptomatic Kids Exposed to COVID

YERUSHALAYIM
A Magen David Adom worker takes a COVID-19 rapid antigen test from a young Israeli boy at a drive-through complex in Yerushalayim. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israeli schoolchildren will no longer have to quarantine after exposure to coronavirus, starting in a week’s time, the government decided on Thursday.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton agreed that as of next Thursday all children up to age 18, whether vaccinated or not, will no longer need to self-isolate after coming into contact with a verified coronavirus case, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Instead, they will be required to undergo a series of three antigen tests, on the first, third and fifth day following the exposure. Only if they display symptoms will they have to stay home.

In the government’s new “Testing and Learning” program, all children in Israel, from birth to 18 will be tested at home once on Sunday morning before going to school and once on Wednesday morning. Children that are tested and found to be negative will go to school as usual. If they are found positive, they will stay home until they recover.

At a press conference on Thursday, Bennett acknowledged the difficulties of the pandemic and complying with ever-changing health rules:

“In recent weeks, almost every parent in Israel has experienced distress. The Omicron wave is currently reaching its peak. The number of infected people is considerable as is the number of those in quarantine, among children as well. It is difficult to maintain normal life this way, at home, in school and at work.

“I am attentive to the distress. We have been very careful in everything regarding the health of our children. Therefore, we waited to see what was happening in other places around the world that are experiencing the worst of the wave. We made certain – and we will continue to do so – that we are on solid ground vis-à-vis the risks of Omicron to children.

“In recent days I held thorough discussions with health system and education system personnel and also with the directors of the children’s hospitals in order to see how we could get the children back to school but in a sure and careful manner,” said Bennett.

“The decision to end isolation within the education system is called for – if the malls and places of entertainment are open, it does not make sense for schools and classrooms to close,” said former director-general of the Education Ministry Michal Cohen in response to the decision.

Also on Thursday, the Health Ministry recommended that high-risk children aged 5-11 become eligible for a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, following a study which indicates that it provides significant protection.

The study found that children aged 5-11 who have been vaccinated with two doses in the last two months were twice as safe from the virus as unvaccinated kids, and teens aged 12-15 who have been vaccinated with a booster shot in the last two months are four times more protected than those who have not been vaccinated.

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