Israel to Drop Mask Mandate on Flights Starting Next Week

Meanwhile, Israeli officials began discussing ending isolation requirements over the last few days in light of the continued decline in incidence of the virus

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
Passengers wear face masks onboard an Easyjet airline flight in May 2020.
Passengers wear face masks onboard an Easyjet airline flight in May 2020.Credit: Yau Ming Low / Shutterstock
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Israel is dropping its mask mandate for flights as of next week, and probably also the quarantine requirement for people living with a dependent who is sick with COVID.

The Health Ministry is expected to cancel the isolation requirement next week for people who live with a dependent diagnosed with the coronavirus but who don’t have the virus themselves.

Even now, this requirement applies to relatively few people – only those who have neither been vaccinated nor previously had the virus, and who live with a patient under age 12 or dependent on them for care for some other reason.

Ministry officials began discussing ending isolation requirements over the last few days in light of the continued decline in incidence of the virus. They agreed that as a first step, the requirement should be lifted next week for people living with a dependent patient. But it’s not yet clear whether the ministry will cancel the rule or merely convert it from a requirement to a recommendation.

The ministry doesn’t yet have a target date or target level of infections for ending the isolation requirement for diagnosed patients. Nevertheless, health-care professionals both inside and outside the ministry say that if current trends continue, isolation requirements will eventually be lifted for verified patients as well – at least as long as infection rates remain low.

More than four million Israelis have already had the virus and recovered, with more than half of them having been infected during the onslaught of the omicron variant earlier this year. And most professionals think the true number is much higher, because many people caught omicron but were never diagnosed.

In addition, more than six million Israelis have received two doses of the vaccine, with 4.5 million of them having received three doses and 800,000 having received four doses.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announced that Israel is canceling its mask mandate on flights starting next Monday.
On Monday, the ministry said Israel will scrap all COVID testing requirements for arriving passengers from May 21.

The new regulations, revised in light of the declining rate of coronavirus infections in Israel, do away with PCR and rapid antigen tests for incoming travelers entering by air, land or sea. Travelers will still be asked to fill out an entry form 48 hours before boarding their flight.

In late April, Israel dropped its indoor mask mandate, excluding high-risk places, such as hospitals, flights, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

While the past week saw a slight increase in the virus’s infection rate, the Health Ministry does not consider the recent rise significant enough to take new measures.

Prof. Ran Balicer, the head of the research institute for Clalit Health Services and the head of the experts’ committee advising the Health Ministry on the pandemic, stated, “The testing policy today has resulted in the calculated infection rate not representing the trends in morbidity in practice.”

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