Israel drops indoor mask requirement Tuesday, as daily cases near zero

Face coverings still required for those unvaccinated in healthcare facilities, people on their way to quarantine, and airplane passengers

People shop, some wearing face masks at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, May 26, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
People shop, some wearing face masks at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, May 26, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Health Ministry announced that from Tuesday the requirement for masks to be worn indoors will be lifted, marking the end of one of the only major coronavirus restrictions remaining in Israel.

The Ministry said there were three exceptions. Workers or guests who have not been vaccinated or recovered at welfare institutions, long-term care facilities or homes for the elderly, individuals en route to quarantine, and travelers on a flight.

The Health Ministry did not address schools. In the past it has said that masks would still be required because the majority of those under 16 have yet to be vaccinated.

The ministry has said that if the declining trend in morbidity continues and the campaign to vaccinate 12- to-15-year-olds, which began last Sunday, succeeds, there would be another discussion to consider dropping the mask requirement in schools as well.

The Health Ministry will also continue updating its list of red countries from which travelers will be required to quarantine for 10 days upon return.

Israelis, some wearing protective face masks and some not, as Israel lifts the restrictions on wearing a mask outdoors, April 21, 2021. (Miriam Alster/ FLASH90)

Last Sunday, Israel kicked off its vaccine drive for children aged 12 to 15, with 600,000 eligible for inoculation.

The move came six months after Israel began its vaccination drive for adults, and after the US Food and Drug Administration okayed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the age group.

Some HMOs have already vaccinated children under 16 in at-risk groups and have seen no significant side effects from the shot.

Israel’s mass vaccination drive, which has already given both shots to over half the population, along with lockdown measures, brought down the number of new daily cases (based on a weekly average), from 8,600 at the peak of the health crisis to just 19 on Sunday.

At the height of the pandemic, there were 88,000 active cases in the country and 1,228 serious cases; as of Monday, there were 212 active infections and 29 people in serious condition.

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