Mask mandate cancellation comes into effect in Israel

The Health Ministry reported some 2,460 new coronavirus cases on Saturday evening.

 Israelis, some wearing masks, are seen walking in Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda market on January 13, 2022 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israelis, some wearing masks, are seen walking in Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda market on January 13, 2022
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Face masks were no longer required in closed spaces as of Saturday evening, following a decision by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz last week.

The compulsory requirement to wear a face mask in closed areas has been in place for almost two years after it was first introduced soon after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there was a brief two weeks in June 2021 when the requirement was lifted, the spread of the Delta variant caused it to be revived.

The only place where masks remain a requirement are high-risk locations – including health clinics, hospitals, old age homes and any other medical spaces. Masks will also still be compulsory on any flights entering or leaving Israel.

The Health Ministry also issued a recommendation for those who are considered at high risk for the virus to continue wearing a mask in enclosed spaces despite the reversal of the compulsory mandate.

“We have finally learned how to live alongside the coronavirus – without panic, with responsibility and sound judgment,” said Bennett and Horowitz in a joint statement regarding their decision. “The coronavirus has not disappeared, but currently no special restrictions are needed. We are acting as we have been doing since the establishment of this government: safeguarding public health while lifting restrictions whenever possible.”

 Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the Coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on February 09, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the Coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on February 09, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry reported 2,460 new coronavirus cases on Saturday evening, meaning a 5.35% positive return rate for the 46,000 PCR and antigen tests that had been taken across the country on Friday, the last day of Passover.

There are currently 219 people considered to be in serious condition, with 78 intubated and an additional seven connected to ECMO machines. The number of serious patients continues to fall, with a 22% reduction in comparison to a week prior.

As of Saturday evening, the R-rate stands at 0.78 (every four infected people infect about three others) and remains consistently steady with no significant highs or lows over the last few weeks.

There have been 10,658 coronavirus-related deaths recorded in Israel since the start of the pandemic.