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Israel looks to reopen schools in easing of coronavirus restrictions

Israel looks to reopen schools in easing of coronavirus restrictions
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Israel is preparing to allow some schools to reopen as it tests easing restrictions put in place to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the government announced Monday.

The Ministry of Education will prepare for the gradual reopening of some schools and kindergartens beginning May 3, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE said in a statement on Twitter, but will reserve the right to rescind the directive based on the most recent data on coronavirus cases.

Asher Salmon, head of the department of international relations within the Israeli Ministry of Health, said in a briefing with reporters on Monday that some schools with students with special education needs will be allowed to operate in small groups this week.

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High schools are expected to remain closed and universities taught remotely.

Early research on coronavirus infections suggests the disease is milder in babies and children, although deaths have occurred.

A study recently published in the journal Pediatrics found that 90 percent of Chinese children who tested positive for the disease had mild or no symptoms, according to a review by researchers with Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. 

Israel, a country of more than 8 million people, has an estimated 15,000 cases and just over 200 deaths, according to data from the Health Ministry.

It was one of the first countries to impose a strict lockdown in response to the growing novel coronavirus pandemic, closing its borders to international tourists beginning March 9.

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Israel issued mandatory stay-at-home orders for all residents over a week later, imposing fines for movement beyond a few hundred feet from their properties except for essential travel, including essential work, grocery shopping or medical needs.

Israel joins a handful of other countries that are working to ease restrictions as the world continues to grapple with the deadly spread of COVID-19.

New Zealand announced on Monday it would begin to lift some restrictions on travel and businesses, after registering only one new confirmed COVID-19 case and four probable cases that are traced to a known source.

In Europe, Italy is expected to begin opening its manufacturing industry in early May while Spain is looking to relax lockdown measures for individuals for more outside freedom of movement.

Large-scale COVID-19 testing of a population and contact tracing is considered one of the most important factors for a country to begin considering lifting lockdown restrictions like stay-at-home orders.

Salmon said Israel should have the capacity to carry out between 20,000 and 25,000 daily coronavirus tests to prepare for easing more restrictions, although Netanyahu has called for 30,000 daily tests, he said.