Israel ends outdoor mask mandate

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Israel ended its outdoor mask mandate Sunday, now that about 80 percent of its adult population has received both doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, reports said. 

“Being without a mask for the first time in a long time feels weird. But it’s a very good weird,” Amitai Hallgarten, 19, told Reuters.

“If I need to be masked indoors to finish with this, I’ll do everything I can.”

At the start of the pandemic last year, Israel required residents to wear face coverings while they were outside as long as they weren’t exercising. But now that close to 5 million people in Israel have received the two-dose vaccine, health officials are starting to ease restrictions, Reuters reported. 

“The rate of infection in Israel is very low thanks to the successful vaccine campaign in Israel, and therefore it is possible to ease [restrictions],” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said in a statement. 

In January, Israel was grappling with about 10,000 new infections a day but amid a surge of vaccinations, that number has dropped to about 200 daily and hospitalizations and deaths are nearly non-existent, France 24 reported. 

While the end of masking up outside is a positive step forward to getting back to normal, the country is still requiring anyone who enters the country, including citizens, to self-isolate. 

The country’s health ministry noted that there are seven cases of a new Indian variant and they are still assessing the impact it may have on transmission.  

“We are leading the world right now when it comes to emerging from the coronavirus,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters. 

“[But] we have still not finished with the coronavirus. It can return.”

 

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