Face masks set to vanish from Israel's streets from Sunday as part of return to normality

James Rothwell
·2 min read
People wearing protective face masks shop at the Mahane Yehuda market ahead of the Rosh Hashana holiday lockdown in Jerusalem, Israel, 17 September 2020 - ABIR SULTAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
People wearing protective face masks shop at the Mahane Yehuda market ahead of the Rosh Hashana holiday lockdown in Jerusalem, Israel, 17 September 2020 - ABIR SULTAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Israelis will no longer be ordered to wear face masks outside from Sunday, in the latest step towards normality in the country with the world’s fastest inoculations drive.

As the number of daily coronavirus cases fell to only around 200 per day, Israeli health minister Yuli Edelstein said masks were no longer necessary outdoors.

“The masks are intended to protect us from the coronavirus. After professionals decided this was no longer required in open spaces, I decided to enable taking them off,” he said.

Israelis will still need to wear face coverings in indoor spaces, such as supermarkets, unless they are eating or drinking.

For the past year, mask wearing outdoors has been compulsory in Israel, which means scrapping the rule will remove one of the last vestiges of the pandemic.

While other restrictions remain in place, such as limits on outdoor and indoor gatherings, these do not apply if attendees present a vaccine certificate.

The certificate, also known as a green pass, is a scannable barcode that allows Israelis to visit pubs and restaurants, as well as attend cultural events.

Since it began inoculating citizens in December, reaching a peak of some 200,000 jabs per day, more than half of Israel’s population of nine million have received both doses of the vaccine.

Since then, the rate of infection has fallen substantially from up to 10,000 cases per day at the peak of the third wave in January to only around 200 cases per day this week.

Israeli schools will also return fully to normal on Sunday with Grades 5-9 no longer required to study in smaller classes, or “pods.”

The rate of people testing positive for coronavirus has fallen to just 0.4 per cent, whereas at the peak of the third wave it was around 10 per cent.