May 14, 2020 / 6:26 PM / in 3 months

Israeli children can go back to school from Sunday: Netanyahu

FILE PHOTO: Parents wait with their children to enter their elementary school in Sderot as it reopens following the ease of restrictions preventing the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Israel May 3, 2020. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel’s children can go back to school and nurseries full-time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, as the country presses on with easing its coronavirus curbs.

Israel - population nine million - has reported 16,579 cases of the novel coronavirus and 265 deaths. With the new case rate levelling out in the past few weeks, it has lifted bans on gatherings, eased travel and reopened malls and markets.

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. [L8N2CL042]

In a written statement, Netanyahu said that from Sunday all children, from the age of zero, may go back to school on a voluntary basis. Those in outbreak epicentres, however, would have to stay home for now.

Under instructions to enforce social distancing, maintain proper hygiene and have children grade four and up wear face masks, it was up to municipalities to decide when each school in its jurisdiction was fully prepared to reopen, Netanyahu said.

Schools reopening full time could help the economy contend with the fallout of weeks of coronavirus lockdown, relieving working parents from having to stay at home and mind their children.

More than 1.1 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, which would be equal to a jobless rate of about 27%. They include employees put on unpaid leave, some self-employed, as well as those who have lost their jobs entirely.

Israel’s airport authority launched a “coronavirus-free area” trial project on Thursday at the country’s main gateway, Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, though commercial flights remain largely suspended.

Reporting by Maayan Lubell

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