Starting Sunday, Israelis won’t be required to wear masks outdoors


An Israeli woman has her temperature taken before entering the Mahane Yehuda market in Israel, part of a national effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus, June 16, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Ben Sales

(JTA) — Israel has reached a milestone in its return to normalcy: Starting Sunday, Israelis will no longer be required to wear masks outside.

The announcement Thursday from the Health Ministry comes as Israel’s COVID case numbers have plummeted along with its successful vaccination drive. At certain points last year, Israel reported case numbers that were among the highest in the world, but the country since has vaccinated more than half its population.

The rising vaccination rates have pushed the COVID numbers down to an average of a couple hundred cases a day among more than 9 million Israelis.

“The masks are intended to protect us from the coronavirus,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said, according to The Times of Israel. “After professionals decided this was no longer required in open spaces, I decided to enable taking them off.”

Masks will still be required in indoor public spaces.

The change in mask protocols is one of a few ways that Israeli society is reopening. Schools will fully reopen next week, and starting in May, vaccinated tour groups will be allowed to visit Israel.