As of Sunday, Israel will drop the national outdoor mask mandate it established at the beginning of the pandemic, marking a milestone for one of the nations to roll out the vaccine the fastest.
Health minister Yuli Edelstein said on Thursday that he had advised ministry director-general Chezy Levy to end the requirement this weekend, which coincides with the 73rd anniversary of Israel’s Independence Day. “The masks are intended to protect us from the coronavirus,” Edelstein said. “After professionals decided this was no longer required in open spaces, I decided to enable taking them off.” Earlier this week, cabinet ministers voted to fully reopen Israeli schools beginning next week.
Although Israel experienced a considerable third wave of cases this winter, the small prosperous nation has been one of the most successful in securing and administering COVID vaccines. The Health Ministry stated on Thursday that the country — with a population of a little over 9 million — had 4,961,238 people who had received two shots and 5,338,967 people who had received one. Cases and positive testing rates are down significantly: There are currently a little less than 3,000 active cases in the country, and as of Sunday, only 0.4 percent of tests came back positive.
Many of the Israeli successes achieved during the pandemic have come at the expense of the semi-autonomous Palestinian National Authority. Although the first vaccines were delivered to Israel in December, the nation did not distribute vaccines in the West Bank until almost two months later. After a significant third wave in February, only 2 percent of Palestinians had been vaccinated as of late March.