With Israel's COVID Numbers Falling, Masks Are No Longer Mandatory Outdoors

Israel's 'big challenge:' Ensuring masks are still worn indoors ■ Israel vaccine data: 54% fully immune ■ Schools fully reopen on Sunday for grades 1-12

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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Students in Ramat Gan, earlier this month.
Students in Ramat Gan, earlier this month.Credit: Hadas Parush
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Israel lifted the COVID restrictions that require wearing a mask outdoors on Sunday, but wearing masks in closed spaces will remain mandatory.

This comes as a result of Israel's Health Minister Yuli Edelstein instruction to his ministry's director general Chezy Levy on Thursday to sign an order lifting the restriction, after the opinion of ministry professionals stated that masks can be dispensed with in open-air areas due to low coronavirus morbidity.

The statement from Edelstein's office on Thursday stressed that Israelis would still be required to wear a mask indoors, and this message was echoed by Israel's coronavirus czar, Professor Nachman Ash.

>> Israel's great success over COVID – and the weakness the virus exposed

A woman wearing a mask in Jerusalem, this monthCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg

In an interview on Saturday, he said that "the big challenge" will be to ensure that masks are used in closed spaces. "I hope that we can count on us to keep a mask in a pocket and to use it when it is needed," he added.

In addition, the education system will also fully reopen on Sunday. Students from grades 1 through 12 will return to class. Last week, the government approved the Health Ministry's outline, according to which if a student is infected with COVID, his entire grade and teaching staff would be tested and could only return to the school once they've received a negative result.

So far, according to Haaretz's tracking of Health Ministry data, 5,343,001 Israelis have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, almost 57.5 percent of the population.

There are currently 2,586 active COVID patients in Israel. Of those, 202 are in serious condition, and 121 are on ventilators. Since the pandemic's onset, 6,331 people have died of COVID in Israel.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla meanwhile said Thursday that he expects a third booster dose of the company's coronavirus vaccine will likely be required within 12 months after being fully vaccinated. It is possible that an annual vaccination will be required, he said.

Boura's statement was made during an interview recorded on April 1, but was first made public on Thursday.

Earlier this month, Pfizer said its vaccine was 91 percent effective in preventing infection after six months. More data is required before its effectiveness beyond that time period is known. Bourla said at the time that this finding, based on analysis of data from 12,000 people who were fully vaccinated at least six months prior, allowed Pfizer to request full regulatory approval from the United States' Food and Drug Administration. Pfizer's vaccine has thus far been approved for emergency use by the FDA.

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