After more than six weeks in home isolation, hundreds of thousands of Israeli children returned to school on Sunday morning, under strict COVID-19 regulations.

Following heated debates last week between health officials, the Education Ministry and the Treasury, the government reached a final decision over the weekend that grades one through three would resume classroom activities. There are currently 493,933 in the former category and 200,000 in the latter.

An additional 80,000 special-education students joined the 60,000 who returned to school earlier this month; and 127,000 pupils (grades seven to 12) in the ultra-Orthodox community also resumed their studies.

According to Israeli media outlets, 20 percent of local authorities, including those in Tel Aviv and Beersheva, announced that they were not prepared to reopen schools due to the strict measures required for the move. While the vast majority consented to the directive, many parents also expressed reservations about the potential health risks involved, and said that they would not comply.

Nevertheless, parents and children wearing surgical masks and adhering to the two-meter (six feet) social-distancing rule lined up at 8 a.m. outside schools across the country to undergo a strict registration process, which included their signing of a health affidavit and having their temperatures taken. Each pupil was given a colored wristband corresponding to a designated, pre-fumigated classroom. Since regulations forbid more than 15 pupils in a single class, half of the students were assigned new teachers and different rooms.

As of Sunday morning, Israel’s COVID-19 death toll stood at 230, out of 16,193 total confirmed cases of infection. According to the Israeli Health Ministry, 103 people are in serious condition, 82 of whom require ventilator support.

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