Israel will lift the requirement to wear masks outdoors starting on Sunday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced on Thursday. The requirement will remain for indoor spaces.
“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.”
The move had been under discussion for several weeks, but authorities decided to wait until the end of Remembrance Day and Independence Day, fearing that mask-less celebrations might lead to a spike in cases.
The majority of experts agree that the risk of contracting the coronavirus outdoors is very limited.
“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.”