Israelis will no longer have to wear face masks outdoors from Sunday because the number of COVID-19 infections is declining, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said.
“The infection rate in Israel is very low due to the successful vaccination campaign in Israel, and therefore it is possible to alleviate (restrictions),” Edelstein said in a statement on Thursday. However, he face said masks are still needed indoors.
With nearly five million people – more than half of the population of 9.3 million – vaccinated, Israel continues its world-beating campaign to lower coronavirus infection rates.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has in part obtained millions of Pfizer / BioNTech vaccines by agreeing to share medical data with Pfizer on the impact of the product.
The vaccines have changed lives in Israel. By mid-January, the country had a peak of about 10,000 new infections per day, but that is now about 200 cases per day.
The rate of new infections remained low even after personal pupils were resumed and restrictions on pubs, restaurants and indoor gatherings were lifted.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla was a guest of honor at a government event that marked Israel’s 73rd year of independence on Wednesday night.
“Together we are demonstrating that through mass vaccinations we can defeat the Covid-19 pandemic and save lives,” Bourla said in a video address.
During Independence Day celebrations, thousands of people barbecued, strolled on the beaches and partyed, often without masks.
On Wednesday, Israel announced a plan to return vaccinated foreign tourists in groups on May 23, more than a year after the country’s borders were closed to most tourists to prevent the spread of the virus.
The easing of Israel’s restrictions contrasts with the occupied West Bank and the blocked Gaza Strip, where infection rates remain high and vaccinations low.
Law groups say Israel should provide vaccinations to the 4.8 million Palestinians living there, but Israel says Palestinians should get their shots fired.