Israel Officially Ends Indoor Mask Mandate Amid COVID Decline

The decision to scrap the mask mandate comes amid a marked drop in COVID cases in Israel and will not apply to high-risk places, such as hospitals

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv, this week.
Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv, this week.Credit: Hadas Parush

Israel's cancellation of the indoor mask mandate came into effect on Saturday evening, as coronavirus continues to wane in the country.

The decision will not apply in high-risk places, such as hospitals, flights, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, while people on their way to quarantine will also be obliged to wear a mask.

The policy shift was announced on Wednesday in a joint statement by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, citing a marked decline in coronavirus cases.

On Saturday, the Health Ministry recorded 4,054 daily COVID cases, one of the lowest figures in four months, while serious cases fell to 221. Six weeks ago, the figure was almost six times as high.

The R number, representing the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects, has risen slightly to 0.78, but remains low. The R number is based on statistics from 10 days earlier. Any figure below 1 indicates that the virus is no longer spreading.

Despite the decline, other COVID-related restrictions will remain in place, such as isolation for those who test positive for coronavirus and mandatory testing for arrivals at Ben-Gurion International Airport, regardless of vaccination status.

The decision still needs to be discussed by the Knesset's Health Committee, chaired by MK Idit Silman, which has the authority to reverse the government's decision.

Indoor mask-wearing was dropped in June and restored two weeks later due to a surge in cases of the delta variant.

This time around, Israel had originally set April 1 as the date to cancel the mask mandate, but with the advent of the BA.2 variant, which is 30 percent more infectious than omicron, the decision was postponed.

Prof. Roni Gamzu, head of the Ichilov Hospital and former COVID czar, said on Tuesday that "most Israeli travelers abroad these days are surprised to see how COVID has vanished from most countries. It's time to do the right thing in Israel too and remove the restrictions, in closed spaces too and naturally for schoolchildren – in fact everywhere, because the coronavirus today is not as dangerous as before."

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Trump and Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, in 2020.

Three Years Later, Israelis Find Out What Trump Really Thought of Netanyahu

German soldier.

The Rival Jewish Spies Who Almost Changed the Course of WWII

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Galon. “I’m coming to accomplish a specific mission: to increase Meretz’s strength and ensure that the party will not tread water around the electoral threshold. If Meretz will be large enough, it will be the basis for a Jewish-Arab partnership.” Daniel Tchetchik

'I Have No Illusions About Ending the Occupation, but the Government Needs the Left'

Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage

Flame and smoke rise during an Israeli air strike, amid Israel-Gaza fighting, in Gaza City August 6, 2022.

Israel Should End Gaza Operation Now, if It Can