After fully vaccinating a majority of its population, Israel no longer requires people to wear masks outdoors

Israel mask vaccine
People walk without masks on a Tel Aviv boulevard on April 18, 2021, the day Israel rescinded its outdoor mask mandate. Amir Cohen/Reuters
  • Israel took another step towards normality, rescinding its outdoor mask mandate Sunday.
  • Its vaccine rollout has been remarkably fast, with more than half of adults fully vaccinated.
  • Israel’s prime minister hailed the progress but warned that the virus “can return.”
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With more than half of its population fully vaccinated, Israel on Sunday dropped its outdoor mask mandate.

Masks are still required in indoor public spaces, like stores, malls, and places of worship. But the change was a stark signal of the country’s progress against the pandemic, powered by one of the world’s earliest and fastest vaccine rollouts.

The outdoor masking rule was in place continuously for around a year.

On Monday, the country also took another step towards a pre-COVID-19 reality with schools fully reopening for the first time since September.

According to The New York Times vaccinations tracker, 60% of Israel’s population has had a first dose of the vaccine, while 56% have had both. Israel’s population is around 9 million people.

Discounting under-16s – who are not currently eligible for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – around 81% of Israelis have been fully vaccinated, Reuters reported.

Israel has overseen a rapid rollout, and the effects appear to be showing. As Sam Sokol reported for Insider, this was possible through securing a large number of doses early, and helped by the country’s centralized, data-driven healthcare system.

Israel vaccine masks
People sit along the promenade as Israel rescinds the mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors, April 18, 2021. Amir Cohen/Reuters

A flexible approach to distributing leftover doses also reduced waste and sped things up, as Insider’s Susie Nielson reported.

Daily new cases reached a peak in late January and tailed off to the low hundreds since early April, Johns Hopkins University’s data shows.

“We are leading the world right now when it comes to emerging from the coronavirus,” Reuters reported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying. “[But] we have still not finished with the coronavirus. It can return.”

Israel started requiring people to wear masks outdoors in April last year, according to Haaretz.

Despite a general mood of jubilation at the lifting of the mandate, some people are adjusting slowly, and still opting to keep their masks on outdoors, Haaretz reported.