Israel Lifts Outdoor Mask Ban, Reopens Schools

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Dubai: Israel lifted the ban on wearing of face masks outdoors and fully reopened schools on Sunday in the latest return to relative normality, boosted by a mass-vaccination campaign against the Covid-19 pandemic.

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.

The police-enforced wearing of protective masks outdoors, ordered a year ago, was scrapped from Sunday, but the Health Ministry said the requirement still applied for indoor public spaces and urged citizens to keep masks to hand.

The education ministry said that schools should continue to encourage personal hygiene, ventilation of classrooms and to maintain social distancing as much distance as possible during breaks and lessons.

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.’

The vaccines have transformed life in Israel. In mid-January, the country had a peak of some 10,000 new infections a day but the rate is now about 200 cases a day.

The rate of new infections has remained low even after in-person learning resumed and restrictions were loosened on bars, restaurants and indoor gatherings.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla was a guest of honour at a government ceremony Wednesday evening marking Israel’s 73rd year of independence.

“Together we are demonstrating that through mass vaccinations we can defeat the Covid-19 pandemic and save lives,” Bourla said in a video address.

Throughout the festivities marking independence day, thousands of people held barbecues, lounged on beaches and celebrated at parties, often without masks.

On Wednesday, Israel announced a plan to allow vaccinated foreign tourists to return in groups beginning May 23, more than a year after closing its borders to most tourists to prevent the spread of the virus.

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