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COVID testing required for all children heading back to school today after Hanukkah holiday

Without a declaration that they tested negative, children from pre-school to sixth grade were not allowed into school

A mother tests her son with a COVID-19 rapid antigen home kit test ahead of returning back to kindergarten following the Sukkot holiday, Sep. 27, 2021. (Photo: Chen Leopold/Flash90)

It has been the hallmark of the Bennett government: Instead of shutting down the economy, the coalition has found alternative ways to attempt to control the spread of COVID-19 – including mass testing of healthy children before they go back to school.

For the third time in four months, the government required school children to take a COVID test before going back to school. The tests – rapid antigen packets provided for parents to perform at home – were distributed to all children from pre-school up in September at the start of school, after the Sukkot holiday in October and again today after the week-long Hanukkah holiday.

The Cabinet approved the testing of pre-school to grade 6, approximately 2 million children, at its Sunday meeting.

“According to the emergency ordinance, pupils in kindergartens and grades 1 to 6 which had a break for Hanukkah, as well as schools that enjoy an exemption under the Compulsory Education Law (such as ultra-orthodox institutions), will be required to present declarations signed by their parents attesting to the carrying out of an antigen test with negative results as a condition for entering school,” the Cabinet said in a statement.

Parents were required to fill out a statement declaring that their child tested negative for the coronavirus as a prerequisite for being allowed onto school grounds on Tuesday.

The testing coincides with the outbreak of the new Omicron variant in Israel. So far, a total of only 11 people in Israel have been detected to have the variant in the past two weeks since it was reported by a South African doctor.

The new variant spooked the government into suddenly shutting its borders to foreigners, beginning Nov. 26, and resurrecting the state-run COVID quarantine facilities. The government implemented – then later retracted – phone surveillance in order to track people who have been infected with Omicron. New strict quarantine rules were slapped onto vaccinated Israelis as well.

According to several initial studies, Omicron is more contagious than the previous known variant, Delta, but seems to have easier symptoms.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has defended the strict measures taken by his government – restrictions that drew opposition from members of his own Cabinet, such as closing the border to tourists and imposing quarantine rules on fully vaccinated Israelis.

“Every day, we are reassessing the situation – on the basis of the data we know at the time – regarding moves to ease restrictions or make them more stringent. Everything is according to the data,” he said. “Some people are saying: ‘But the situation is so good in the country, why are you being so stringent?’ The reason that the situation is good in the country is that we are taking quick and precise action. We know to relax the restrictions when necessary and when to tighten them.”

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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