Israelis required to wear face masks when out in public
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Israelis required to wear face masks when out in public

As Health Ministry directive takes effect Sunday, police to allow grace period

The empty Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv on April 11 2020. (Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90)
The empty Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv on April 11 2020. (Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israelis are required to wear faces masks when venturing outside in accordance with a new Health Ministry directive that came into effect on Sunday morning. The measure was approved by the government this past week.

Under the new rules, masks must be worn when leaving home and should cover the nose and the mouth. This does not apply to children under age 6; people with emotional, mental or medical conditions that would prevent them from wearing a mask; drivers in their cars; people alone in a building; and two workers who work regularly together, provided they maintain social distancing.

The masks can be homemade, makeshift, or bought, according to the authorities. The order had previously been issued as a recommendation.

“A face mask greatly reduces the likelihood of being infected and infecting others,” the ministry said, adding that it obstructed respiratory droplets.

Police at a temporary checkpoint at the entrance to Jerusalem on April 8, 2020, to check Israelis are adhering to coronavirus-related restrictions. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police will delay enforcing this measure in its initial stages. Authorities are enforcing other directives which have been in place for several weeks, such as gatherings of no more than two people, and staying within 100 meters from home when outside.

Israelis are allowed outdoors under certain conditions, such as to buy food and medicine.

The Health Ministry sent out a reminder on Saturday about the new regulation and aired an infomercial during the nightly news about the benefits of wearing a face mask including instructions on how to fashion one using a bandana and hair ties.

The face mask order came as the World Health Organization (WHO) questioned the effectiveness of such a policy.

The WHO released updated guidelines Tuesday on face masks, saying there was “limited evidence” suggesting a mask worn by a person with the coronavirus would protect those around them, and “no evidence” it was effective for those who are healthy.

Moreover, it warned people to reserve medical masks for health care professionals and cautioned of a false sense of security by mask-wearers.

It added: “The use of masks made of other materials (e.g., cotton fabric), also known as nonmedical masks, in the community setting has not been well evaluated. There is no current evidence to make a recommendation for or against their use in this setting.”

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