Exactly a year and three months after the public was instructed to do put on a face mask amid the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Israelis are no longer required to wear masks while indoors.
Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Chezy Levy signed an amendment to the Public Health Order on Monday evening, which abolishes the obligation to wear a mask in closed spaces as of Tuesday, June 15.
Both young and old left their houses today without putting on a mask for the first time in more than a year. Israelis have not had to wear masks outdoors since April.
About 55% of Israel’s 9.3 million population are fully vaccinated – a turnout largely unchanged by this month’s expansion of eligibility to include 12- to 15-year-olds.
Israel has this month logged either zero or one daily COVID-19 deaths, Health Ministry data show. New infections have been in a steady but gentle decline after a steep drop-off in February and March.
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The ministry said masks would still be required of unvaccinated patients or staff in medical facilities, of people en route to quarantine, and passengers on commercial flights.
With the signing of the order, businesses and venues around the country will be able to resume operating as they did before the pandemic, as masks will no longer be required in places of commerce, workspaces, educational institutions, or other enclosed public spaces.
There are three exceptions to the rule, however.
Unvaccinated guests, employees, and those who have not had the coronavirus at assisted living facilities for the elderly, and at health institutions housing patients admitted for prolonged hospital stays, will still be required to wear masks. This is due to the high risk of those populations becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.
People who are entering coronavirus isolation will also be obligated to wear masks on their way to their quarantine location. Passengers on flights will be required to do the same.
In line with the lifting of requirements on mask-wear by the Health Ministry, the IDF will also follow suit and officially abolish the requirement for soldiers to wear masks. The IDF was the first defense organization in the world to vaccinate the entirety of its ranks, and as of Tuesday, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus across the IDF.
Levy clarified that the abolition of the obligation for Israelis to wear masks extends to the public transportation sector, and although it is not required, he recommended in an interview with Ynet that passengers still do so.
In addition, detailed guidelines for health institutions will be distributed again by Health Ministry officials to specify exactly who needs to wear masks while coming into contact with patients and where they must do it.
Following the Health Ministry’s decision to abolish the requirement to wear masks in enclosed spaces, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy appealed to the Knesset officer for the order to be lifted in the Knesset as well.
The Bank of Israel announced on Tuesday that the Banking Supervision Department intends to return all branches of the banking system to normal operation for public reception by June 30. This would mean that banks across Israel would return to providing all services that were available before the pandemic, such as in-person services, removing the need to set up advanced appointments, etc.
The ministry has been examining canceling the order to wear masks indoors since late May, providing morbidity rates continued to stay low following the new round of openings that took place at the beginning of June.
Some 25 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in Israel on Monday, with only 0.01% of tests returning positive, according to a Tuesday morning update by the Health Ministry.
Of all those infected, 29 were in serious condition, with 19 on ventilators. The death toll stands at 6,428.