Israel lifts outdoor face mask rule after vaccination drive

The mandatory wearing of face masks in outdoor public spaces, ordered a year ago, was scrapped on Sunday (AFP via Getty Images)

Israel dropped the requirement to wear face masks outdoors and fully reopened schools on Sunday due to a successful vaccination drive against the coronavirus.

The mandatory wearing of face masks in outdoor public spaces, ordered a year ago, was scrapped on Sunday, although face masks are still mandatory in indoor settings.

All primary and secondary school students returned to classrooms on Sunday, marking a full return to education.

Students will still be required to wear masks indoors but will be allowed to take them off during physical education (PE), when they eat, and in between classes, The Times of Israel reported.

The education ministry said that schools should continue to encourage personal hygiene, ventilation of classrooms and to maintain social distancing as much distance as possible during breaks and lessons.

Removing the mask requirement outdoors and reinitiating in-class studies is a “calculated risk,” Israel‘s coronavirus czar, Nachman Ash, told public radio on Sunday.

After suffering a third wave, Israel has carried out a world-leading vaccination programme, with 53 per cent of its 9.3 million citizens having received both shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Cases have dropped significantly since the start of the vaccination programme. Only 84 new cases were recorded on Saturday and 206 people were seriously ill with the virus, according to the latest figures.

The successful vaccine campaign has allowed Israel to fully open its economy and the country. Last week, Israel announced it would be reopening the country to vaccinated foreign tourists in May.

Since the start of the pandemic last year, Israel has recorded over 836,000 cases of the coronavirus and at least 6,331 deaths, according to the Health Ministry

Israel counts East Jerusalem Palestinians among its population and has been administering the vaccines there.

However, it has faced criticism for not sharing more of its supplies with the 5.2 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Islamist Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, where the vaccination has been slow to take off.

Source: Press Association / The Independent/ TOE

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