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COVID czar: Cases will likely rise over holidays, but masks could be gone by summer

People some with face masks shop for groceries at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, on February 8, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
People some with face masks shop for groceries at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, on February 8, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

COVID czar Salman Zarka says he expects virus cases to rise over the upcoming Passover holiday, but that Israel’s indoor mask mandate could be gone by the summer.

“I’m very concerned. I imagine that infections will rise over the holidays and the masks will stay with us for a while longer, past May 1” when the mandate is currently set to expire, Zarka tells reporters during a briefing, saying a “sixth wave” is possible after the holiday, which is often marked by large family gatherings.

However, he adds, “I believe that this summer will be mask-free. If a new variant does not appear in the next two-three months we will discuss lifting more restrictions.”

Israel has maintained an indoor mask mandate largely since the start of the outbreak, with the exception of a period of less than two weeks last summer.

Zarka notes that despite the high rate of infections from Omicron, Israel has not succeeded in developing herd immunity. “We are not succeeding in developing herd immunity because every variant has the ability to infect,” he says. “The danger of the next variant will continue to worry us.”

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