Israel brings back mask rules as new COVID-19 variant arrives
Israel had rolled out one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the world by inoculating some 85% of its adult population. Also, in recent months, the government had lifted almost all the restrictions as the number of active cases had plummeted.
Israel is once again requiring its people to wear masks in indoor public spaces amid the Coronavirus outbreak driven by the arrival of a new variant. The government has asked the citizens that the masks must be worn indoors in public places from June 25, 2021.
Israel, a world leader in vaccination, had rolled out one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the world by inoculating some 85% of its adult population. Also, in recent months, the government had lifted almost all the restrictions as the number of active cases had plummeted.
From June 15, 2021, the Government had allowed people to go maskless indoors while for outdoors, the obligation to wear a mask was lifted from April 18, 2021.
However, there has been a spike in recent days in which the number of new daily COVID-19 cases has been in the single or low double digits. As per the Israeli media, 227 new cases were reported on June 24, 2021.
Delta variant in Israel:
According to the Israeli Government, the outbreak in the country appears to be driven by the arrival of the highly contagious Delta Variant, which spreads rapidly among unvaccinated individuals, including the children.
Even though vaccinated Israelis have also been infected but they generally appear to have only minor symptoms.
The Government, earlier this week, also postponed the planned reopening of the country to the vaccinated tourists until the beginning of August 2021. It was originally set for July 1, 2021, and vaccinated tour groups have been permitted since May.
Mask regulation to continue for some in Israel:
• The health ministry while announcing the decision added that some people will still have to wear masks to combat the spread of Coronavirus.
• These will include the workers or guests who have not been vaccinated or recovered at the welfare institutions, individuals en route to quarantine, long-term care facilities or homes for the elderly, and travelers on a flight.
Schools excluded from easing of restrictions:
The Health Ministry, for the time being, has also excluded schools from the easing of limitations. Children will be required to wear masks in classes since the majority of those under 16 in Israel are yet to be vaccinated.
However, the ministry added that if the declining trend in morbidity continues and the campaign to vaccinate 12-15 years old, which began on June 13, 2021, succeeds, there will be another discussion to consider dropping the mask requirements in schools as well.
Restrictions to continue for travelers in Israel:
The latest policy of dropping the mask will also extend to Ben Gurion Airport, although the travelers will continue to face other restrictions and individual airlines will require masks on planes themselves.
The Health Ministry of Israel will also continue updating its list of red countries from which the travelers will be required to quarantine for ten days upon return.
COVID-19 vaccination drive in Israel:
Israel, on June 13, kicked off its vaccination drive for children aged 12 to 15, with 6,00,000 eligible for the inoculation.
The move came 6 months after Israel began its vaccination drive for the adults and after the US FDA approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine for the age group.
Some of the Health Maintenance Organisations of Israel have already vaccinated children under age 16 in at-risk groups and have seen no side effects from the shot.
COVID-19 cases in Israel:
At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Israel, 88,000 active cases in the country and 1228 serious cases were recorded.
However, as of June 14, 2021, there were 212 active COVID-19 cases and 29 people in serious condition all over the country.
Earlier, in an attempt to curb the increasing COVID-19 cases, various countries made wearing masks mandatory indoors as well as in public places. Israel was also one of the countries to follow the recommendation of WHO to use medical masks.
On April 12, 2020, Israel made it mandatory for its citizens to wear face masks while out in the public. Later, the government also announced rules to enforce wearing face masks indoors as well.