Combat troops, soldiers in training no longer need to wear face masks outside

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Combat troops and soldiers in training will no longer have to wear face masks when they are in open areas as part of a new Health Ministry-approved pilot program, the Israel Defense Forces says.

This trial will last three months and comes as the military boasts of a more than 80 percent vaccination rate in its ranks. The IDF says after three months, this policy will be reviewed and may then be extended.

An Israeli soldier, mask-clad due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, stands guard next to an outpost and army humvees during the ‘Deadly Arrow’ military drill in the northern part of Israel on October 27, 2020 (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

In a statement, the Health Ministry says the pilot program will only be offered to units that have at least a 90 percent rate of soldiers who have either had the disease and recovered or who’ve received their second dose of the vaccine more than one week ago. The ministry adds that the IDF is required to track all those taking part in the program and send in weekly reports on any illnesses or outbreaks in the units.

This mask exemption will only be in place when soldiers are taking part in training exercises or are outside. When the soldiers are inside they will again have to don face masks and maintain social distancing, the military says.

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