Nationwide, only 510 active cases; 59 in serious condition

As virus fades, Israel to lift all COVID restrictions on gatherings

Requirement to wear face masks indoors remains intact, but is being reevaluated; health regulations on air travel remain

Israelis on the streets of Tel Aviv, May 23, 2021. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Israelis on the streets of Tel Aviv, May 23, 2021. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Israel on June 1 will lift the remaining coronavirus restrictions on gatherings, and will no longer limit entry to certain venues only to the vaccinated, following the near-decimation of COVID-19 in the country, as a result of its successful vaccine drive.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced the move Sunday, adding that the requirement to wear masks indoors will remain in place for the next two weeks at least, as health experts evaluate whether to abolish that directive as well. The rules governing international travel also remain intact, and may potentially be made more stringent to prevent the potential entry of new COVID variants.

But as of June 1, the so-called Purple Badge and Green Pass systems will be scrapped, meaning that Israelis will no longer require proof of vaccination to enter various venues, and capacity limits at stores, restaurants and other sites will be lifted. There will be no further caps on gatherings, indoors or outdoors.

“Israel is returning to routine,” Edelstein said. “Less than six months ago, we started the vaccination campaign. Thanks to the excellent work of the workers in the health system… we carried out the best vaccination drive in the world. We have long been reaping our reward with low morbidity.

Israelis and vaccinated tourists wearing masks for COVID-19 protection arrive to Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on May 23, 2021, after a partial re-opening of the border to inoculated tourists from 14 countries. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

“Now, to my joy, the situation allows us to cancel the use of the Green Pass and the restrictions of the Purple Badge,” he added.

But, he said, the return to normal comes with a caveat. “The Health Ministry is working to continue the low morbidity and will continue to comprehensively observe the situation to prevent an outbreak. Of course, if there is an outbreak, we will have to go back.”

Edelstein urged Israelis not to travel to countries with high morbidity rates, and to stick to distancing rules when abroad.

Israel has made dramatic gains in stamping out the virus through its vaccination campaign, driving down the number of daily cases (based on a weekly average), from 8,600 at the peak of the health crisis to just 27 this week. At the height of the pandemic, there were 88,000 active cases in the country and 1,228 serious cases; currently, there are 510 active infections and 59 people in serious condition.

Israelis on the streets of Tel Aviv, after a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. May 21, 2021. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Currently, 22 hospitals in Israel do not have a single COVID patient and there are no medical staff in quarantine over exposure to the virus. According to the ministry, over 5.1 million Israelis received both doses of the vaccine and 92% of Israelis over 50 are fully vaccinated.

The morbidity rates in the country have remained low, despite the reopening of most of the economy and of the school system.

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