On Thursday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced that as of Sunday, Israelis will no longer be required to wear a mask while outdoors in public. Masks will still be required in closed public spaces. Edelstein instructed Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy to sign a decree ending the restriction.
“The masks are intended to protect us from the coronavirus,” said Edelstein. “After our health professionals came to the conclusion that they are no longer needed outdoors, I decided to allow it according to their recommendation. The level of morbidity in Israel is very low thanks to our successful vaccination campaign, and thus we can ease up further restrictions for you, citizens of Israel. I ask you to still carry a mask in order to enter closed buildings. Together we will keep the morbidity low.”
Authorities had considered this decision for several weeks and police had stopped issuing fines for violating the mask regulation. But the decision was held off until after the Independence Day celebrations lest public gatherings lead to another spike in infections.
“We know that wearing masks outdoors is not as effective as doing it indoors,” Dr. Eyal Leshem, the director of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Diseases at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, said last week. “Moreover, we see that many people don’t actually wear masks anymore anyway. Therefore at this point, with a low number of cases and a majority of the population vaccinated or recovered, it would make sense from epidemiological and public health perspectives to lift the requirement.”
On Sunday, the school system will return to fully functioning status with no restrictions.
According to the latest Health Ministry figures released Thursday evening, 196 new coronavirus cases were recorded Wednesday and another 91 since midnight, with 836,706 total infections confirmed since the pandemic began. The death toll stood at 6,314. There were 2,945 active cases, including 209 patients in serious condition, 126 of whom were on ventilators. Of the 55,470 tests performed Wednesday, 0.4% came back positive. The ministry also said 5,338,967 Israelis have received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose and 4,961,238 have received two shots.