Israel reimposes indoor mask requirement as COVID cases surge

Tel Aviv: As Israel reported a surge in COVID-19 cases, the authorities have reimposed an indoor mask requirement, with a top health official warning the spread of the COVID-19 virus was accelerating. The decision was made on Friday and people have been asked to wear masks both indoors and at mass gatherings outdoors.

 Citing Health Ministry, Times of Israel reported that the renewed mandate took effect at noon in all enclosed spaces — except for permanent places of residence — a day after the head of a team appointed to tackle coronavirus, czar Nachman Ash said it would be reinstated early next week amid a recent resurgence in cases.

However, the mandate was lifted last week on June 15.

According to a Health Ministry’s statement, those exempt from the requirement were children under seven, people with disabilities that prevent them from wearing a mask, anyone alone in an enclosed space, two workers who work regularly together in the same room, and anyone exercising.

TOI further reported that the ministry has directed Israelis to wear face masks at mass gatherings outdoors.

It also urged those in at-risk groups or who are not vaccinated against COVID to avoid gatherings. On June 13, Israel kicked off its vaccine drive for children aged 12 to 15, with 600,000 eligible for inoculation.

The move came six months after Israel began its vaccination drive for adults, and after the US Food and Drug Administration okayed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the age group.

At the peak of the pandemic, there were 88,000 active cases in the country and 1,228 serious cases; as of Friday, the number of active cases further rose to 872, while the number of serious cases nationwide remained steady at 26, according to Times of Israel.