Israel will remove its only remaining major Covid-19 restriction – the indoor mask mandate – on June 15 if the infection level remains low, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has announced.
On June 1, Israel lifted most of the Covid-19-related rules that plagued its economy for more than a year, removing the cap on gatherings and allowing restaurants, stores, and other similar businesses to operate without restrictions. Also, ‘vaccine passports’ are no longer required in order to attend certain cultural and sporting events.
The removal of the indoor mask requirement comes as almost 60% of its population has been fully vaccinated. Over 5 million people in the nation of 9 million had received their second shot by Sunday, according to government data. Sunday was also the first day in which Israel recorded no new domestic cases of Covid-19 – the four new infections reported over the last 24 hours all originated abroad, the Israeli media said.
“If the morbidity remains low until June 15, we will allow masks to be removed even indoors,” Edelstein said on Sunday during a ceremony honoring health workers, adding that “this is a reality we did not expect to reach at this point, and we made it.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the speed of the vaccination rollout as well.
“This is what victory looks like – hundreds of Israelis sit in confined spaces with masks on and enjoy it. We went back to smiling. Israel smiles because Israel wins,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony, as cited by Ynet news.
The number of new cases dropped to single digits in Israel on June 1. The number of active cases also continues to decrease and fell to 221, including 38 seriously ill, on Sunday, according to government data.
Schools, however, will still be covered by the indoor mask requirement after June 15, officials said, as children under 16 have yet to be vaccinated. Students will have to continue to wear masks in class as Israel starts the campaign to vaccinate children aged between 12 and 16. If it is successful, the government will consider lifting this requirement as well in the coming weeks.
Curbs on air travel will also remain in place. International arrivals will still be required to produce negative coronavirus tests, taken before and after landing. Those traveling to Israel will also have to go into quarantine for at least 10 days upon arrival if they do not present valid vaccination or recovery certification issued by the Israeli Ministry of Health.