'This is not a requirement, but an act of solidarity'

Health Ministry urges, but doesn’t demand, return to masks amid spike in infections

Nearly 6,000 new COVID cases diagnosed in a day and 103 in serious condition, with reproduction number climbing to 1.51 — the highest it has been since previous wave

A woman wearing a face mask walks in downtown Jerusalem, March 16, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A woman wearing a face mask walks in downtown Jerusalem, March 16, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

With coronavirus infections continuing to climb, the Health Ministry on Monday recommended that people return to using face masks in enclosed spaces.

In a statement, the ministry noted the “sharp” jump in infection numbers in recent days, “along with a rise in the number of serious cases.”

“In a situation in which the economy is completely open, normalcy is being preserved and there are no restrictions. It’s the responsibility of each of us to take precautions,” it said.

There was no indication that the ministry would seek to have the recommendation enforced, but it could point to government restrictions coming back, if infection figures continue to rise.

“This is not a requirement, but an act of solidarity and caring for your fellow man,” the statement said.

Israel scrapped its indoor mask requirement in April, as infection numbers dropped off sharply. Outdoor masks have not been required since April of last year.

Travelers wearing protective face masks at Ben Gurion Airport, on August 5, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Since June 6, the rolling average of daily infections has jumped from 2,400 a day to nearly 5,000.

According to the latest Health Ministry data, 5,829 new cases were diagnosed on Sunday. With 22,118 tests, the positivity rate stood at 26.35%.

The virus’s basic reproduction number, or R-value, reached 1.51, the highest it has been since the Omicron wave.

The figure, which represents the situation 10 days earlier, measures how many people each coronavirus carrier infects on average, with any number above 1 meaning the spread of COVID-19 is increasing. It first began to rise above 1 in mid-May, having stayed below that threshold for nearly two months.

There were 103 patients in serious condition, according to ministry figures. The number of seriously ill steadily dropped since mid-March, but over the past month plateaued and has now started to rise slightly.

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