Israel ends its indoor mask mandate
Israel will no longer require people to wear masks indoors, removing one of the country’s last coronavirus restrictions as infections continue to decline there, Israel’s health ministry said announced Tuesday.
Hezi Levi, director general of the ministry, broke the news as he took off his mask on a morning TV show.
Masks will still be required in some cases, including for passengers and aircraft crews, and for unvaccinated people in healthcare facilities. The move comes only about two weeks after Israel lifted capacity restrictions and withdrawn its Green Pass system, allowing vaccinated and unvaccinated people equal access to cultural and economic activities. The main remaining limitations relate to travel to and from Israel, which involves strict testing and quarantine rules.
The deployment of the Israeli vaccine began in December and was remarkably rapid, spurred by an adequate supply of doses and the Green Pass, which gave vaccinated Israelis more freedoms than people who had not been vaccinated.
The campaign has led to a sharp drop in confirmed cases, from a peak of a seven-day average of more than 8,500 a day in January to around a dozen now, according to Our world in data. More than 63% of the population had received at least one vaccine injection, Our World in Data said. (Vaccines are available for people 12 years of age and older.)
In Rehovot, a city in central Israel, some residents had ignored the mask’s mandate, throwing masks under their chins, long before Mr. Levi’s announcement. Masks appeared even rarer after the term of office ended on Tuesday.
Israel is in a moment of political fragility after a coalition government narrowly replaced Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving leader of the conservative Likud Party, with Naftali Bennett, a far-right prime minister.
A long-delayed march by far-right activists through Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem took place on Tuesday evening. Videos have shown that almost none of the walkers wore a mask.
Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting from Rehovot, Israel.