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Israel drops almost all COVID health rules as it exits Omicron wave

Only three restrictions remain: face masks in indoor public spaces, Green Pass to enter old age homes, and PCR tests upon arrival for Israelis returning from abroad

People enjoy a hot mineral water spring in Hamat Gader, northern Israel, on February 5, 2022. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
People enjoy a hot mineral water spring in Hamat Gader, northern Israel, on February 5, 2022. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Israel on Tuesday rolled back almost all of its COVID-19 health rules as a recent wave of infections receded, leaving in place just a handful to prevent a reversal of the positive development.

As the country transitions to the more relaxed status, the most notable rule to remain is a requirement to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces. The current requirement for masks in some large outdoor gatherings is canceled.

In addition, the Green Pass certificate, granted to those who are vaccinated, recovered, or recently tested negative for the coronavirus, will only be needed to enter old age homes.

Also, under the new guidelines, both vaccinated and unvaccinated tourists of all ages will be allowed into the country, as long as they submit a negative PCR test before boarding the flight and take another one after landing in Israel. Citizens will no longer need to test before returning home (though it’s suspected that some airlines will still insist on a test), but will still need to test upon arrival.

A Green Pass was previously needed to attend almost any public event and many venues, but the rules of its use have been gradually rolled back as infections dropped, leaving only the care home requirement still in place.

Existing Green Pass certificates will be extended until May 31 for those who have had at least three vaccine doses or a shot in the previous six months. Those who have recovered from COVID-19 can obtain a Green Pass for six months following their recovery, valid also until May 31.

A requirement for children in middle school and high school to take regular twice-weekly antigen tests at home ended, and it will be canceled for younger children on March 10.

The changes come as the count of new daily cases has ebbed to barely a ninth of what it was a month ago.

Back then, when the latest wave was at its height, the moving average of new daily diagnoses was about 75,000. Health Ministry figures released Tuesday showed there were 8,372 new cases diagnosed the previous day.

At points in January there were more than half a million people infected — 1 in 20 Israelis — but the new numbers showed there are 72,270 active patients in the country.

The number of seriously ill patients has more than halved since February 6, from 1,242 to 582, the lowest it has been since January 19.

The death toll since the start of the pandemic is 10,204.

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