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Israel lifts outdoor mask mandate, reopens schools after mass vaccination drive

All primary and secondary school grades returned to classrooms on Sunday, and health officials ended a year-long requirement to wear a mask in public spaces

twitter-logoAssociated Press | April 20, 2021 | Updated 09:38 IST
Israel lifts outdoor mask mandate, reopens schools after mass vaccination drive

Israel has lifted a public mask mandate and fully reopened its education system in the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions following its mass vaccination drive.

All primary and secondary school grades returned to classrooms on Sunday, and health officials ended a year-long requirement to wear a mask in public spaces. Masks are still required indoors and in large gatherings.

Israel has speedily inoculated a majority of its population against the coronavirus in a world-leading vaccination campaign. It has lifted most of its coronavirus restrictions and announced last week that it would be reopening the country to vaccinated foreign tourists starting in May.

Israel's coronavirus czar, Nachman Ash, told Israeli public radio on Sunday that removing the mask requirement outdoors and reinitiating in-class studies was a "calculated risk."

Since the start of the pandemic last year, Israel has recorded over 836,000 cases of the coronavirus and at least 6,331 deaths, according to the Health Ministry. Over 53 per cent of its 9.3 million citizens has received two shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

In the months since Israel launched its vaccination campaign in December, serious cases and deaths have fallen precipitously and allowed the economy to fully reopen.

The vaccination campaign in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza has been slow to get off the ground, with Israel facing criticism for not sharing more of its supplies.

Also read: Macron foresees summer tourists in Paris on COVID-19 negative test report, vaccination

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