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Israel to end mandatory masking aboard international flights on May 23

‘We aren’t keeping unnecessary restrictions in place,’ health minister declares, while testing requirements for flying will end Saturday

A woman wears a face mask on a flight from Ben Gurion International Airport to Rome on February 21, 2020. (Nati shohat/Flash90)
A woman wears a face mask on a flight from Ben Gurion International Airport to Rome on February 21, 2020. (Nati shohat/Flash90)

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz on Tuesday announced that face masks will no longer be required on international flights as of May 23, as the government moves to end Israel’s few remaining coronavirus restrictions.

“We aren’t keeping unnecessary restrictions in place,” Horowitz tweeted.

Under the new policy, starting next Monday masking will be only mandatory in medical centers and senior living facilities.

Starting Saturday, May 21, both Israeli and foreign travelers will no longer need to be tested for COVID-19 to enter the country, neither before boarding a flight nor after landing.

The minister also defended the government’s handling of the pandemic since taking office last year, touting its opposition to lockdown measures.

“We stopped the policy of lockdowns and closures and moved to a sane and responsible policy,” Horowitz said. “We are providing all the medical tools and learning to live alongside coronavirus.”

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, February 14, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

According to Ynet news site report Monday, Horowitz and top Health Ministry officials in recent weeks have discussed dropping quarantine rules for Israelis who contact COVID.

“Canceling quarantine means that coronavirus is like other diseases,” an unnamed senior ministry official is quoted as saying.

The official added that the move would be an effective declaration that the pandemic is over.

Current rules require those who test positive to quarantine for five days if they test negative on the fourth and fifth day, or otherwise for seven days, regardless of whether their symptoms subside beforehand.

The report said that Horowitz and Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash have yet to formulate an opinion on ending quarantine. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the head of public health services at the ministry, is expected to oppose the move.

Health Ministry figures released Tuesday morning showed there are 15,476 active infections in the country, including 108 people hospitalized in serious condition, of whom 51 are on ventilators.

The death toll stood at 10,806.

Ministry data also showed the transmission rate dipping slightly further after rising above 1 for further days, meaning that the spread of the virus is again slowing.

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