JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Coronavirus infection rates have risen in Israel, particularly in schools, since the government began easing restrictions and it may reimpose them if the trend continues, the health ministry said on Friday.
The number of positive tests rose to 101 on Friday from four last Saturday and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet ministers and senior health officials on Saturday to decide whether to again close schools for some grades.
Breaking into a public holiday to sound a note of caution, Health Ministry director general Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov said some people had not been vigilant enough regarding social distancing, hygiene and wearing masks.
Though the number of daily tests has not changed, the rate of positive results has jumped to 1.5% from 0.5%, he told reporters.
“Sadly the disease is still here,” Bar-Siman-Tov said. “The atmosphere of loosening up among the Israeli public is out of place.”
The government may reimpose restrictions if the numbers keep rising, he said.
“I understand there are complaints that we have one policy and then change it, but that is how it works around the whole world.”
After enacting restrictions early in the outbreak compared to most other countries, Israel began to ease its lockdown in mid April after a slowdown in infection rates.
A partial reopening of schools began on May 3, with the first three grades of elementary school and the last two grades of high school redistributed in classes capped at 15 pupils to enforce social distancing. Kindergartens joined a week later.
Schoolchildren were permitted to go back to school and nurseries full time on May 17 on a voluntary basis, with some exceptions for those in coronavirus hotspots.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Stephen Farrell; editing by Grant McCool)
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