Israelis will be required to wear face masks beginning Sunday under new Health Ministry directives approved by the government on Tuesday. The order came as the World Health Organization questioned the effectiveness of such a policy.
Under the new rules, masks must be worn when leaving home. 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 order goes into effect on Sunday at 7 a.m.
The masks can be homemade or makeshift, but should cover the mouth and nose, 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.
But experts around the world have cast doubt on the idea that widespread use of masks is helpful in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, while warning of numerous pitfalls.
The World Health Organization 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 healthcare 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.”