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With the new school year starting Wednesday in Israel, the government has ordered that teachers cannot go to their workplaces without a vaccination certificate or a new Covid-19 test. The same is true for nursing staff.

The decision to tighten so-called “Green Pass” restrictions on the education, health and social protection sectors was taken at a high-level coronavirus cabinet meeting that ended on Monday evening.

This means that teachers, doctors, nurses and caregivers could only do their jobs if they present documents proving that they have been vaccinated or that they have recently recovered from Covid-19. Otherwise, a negative PCR test performed within the previous 72 hours would be required.

However, the sanction incurred by workers who flout the new rules is still unclear. The justice and education ministries had warned earlier that they could be put on unpaid leave.

But the Teachers’ Association threatened to take the High Court if its members found themselves without pay, adding that they would only cooperate if the same regulations were applied to the entire public sector in the country.

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Teachers are also unhappy with the idea of ​​paying out of pocket for their own Covid-19 tests, an idea that is being put forward by the Ministry of Education. As of last week, there were some 37,000 unvaccinated teachers and school staff in Israel, according to government estimates.

Israel has conducted one of the largest per capita immunization campaigns in the world, fully immunizing about 63% of its 9.3 million people and already giving a third booster to two million.

There was a lot of debate and tension ahead of the decision to open schools on September 1 amid an increase in Covid-19 cases caused by the more contagious Delta variant. Israel passed 7,000 coronavirus-related deaths on Monday, with 6,662 new infections reported and 738 patients still in serious condition.

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Some members of the government, including the director general of the Ministry of Health, Nachman Ash, have suggested that the school year be postponed due to the poor epidemiological situation.

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton initially opposed the plan to vaccinate students between classes and, after finally agreeing, faced death threats online. Over the weekend, the minister’s security was increased because of these messages.

Shasha-Biton also reportedly warned Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that there would not be enough teachers to replace their unvaccinated colleagues if the “Green Pass” system was introduced, but the Prime Minister told him to find one. way to solve the problem.

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