Israel lifts outdoor mask rule as vaccinations drive down infections.

In the clearest sign yet that Israel is emerging from the coronavirus crisis, from Sunday people will no longer be required to wear masks outdoors and schools will resume regular teaching.

Announcing the cancellation of the decree to wear masks, health minister Yuli Edelstein said Israel’s vaccination drive had dramatically lowered the morbidity rate.

“The infection rate in Israel is very low thanks to our successful vaccination campaign, and therefore more easing of restrictions can be offered. I ask you to still be equipped with a mask when entering confined spaces. Together we will keep the infection rate low,” he said.

At the same time, the school system is resuming regular classes.

Pupils in the first to fourth grades, whose in-person school days were reduced to four times per week, will return to the classroom five days a week. The rest of the students, who studied on alternate days and had to sit in booths, will no longer be required to do so.

More than 83 per cent of all residents of Israel who are eligible to be vaccinated against Covid-19 – 5.3 out of 6.4 million – have already received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 77 per cent have received both doses. If the number of Israelis who have already contracted the virus and recovered are added, that brings the percentage of Israelis over the age of 16 who have recovered from Covid-19 or been vaccinated with at least one dose up to 92 per cent, and 87 per cent in the case of those who have received both doses.

Defying predictions

In some localities the rate of vaccination and/or recovery is close to 100 per cent, including cities such as Eilat and Beersheba – defying predictions of many health experts who warned that large sectors of the population would refuse a vaccination.

Prof Eyal Leshem, a director at the Sheba medical centre, said removing the regulation to wear masks is a logical step.

“We know that wearing masks outdoors is not as effective as doing it indoors,” he said. “Moreover, we see that many people don’t actually wear masks anymore. Therefore, with the low number of cases and a majority of the population vaccinated or recovered, it makes sense from epidemiological and public health perspectives to lift the requirement.”

He said herd immunity was the “only explanation” for the fact that cases continued to fall even as more restrictions were lifted.

“There is a continuous decline despite returning to near normalcy,” he said. “This tells us that even if a person is infected, most people they meet walking around won’t be infected by them.” A total of 6,314 people have died in Israel from Covid-19, but the number of seriously ill patients continues to fall and currently stands at just over 200.

The Irish Times

The Irish Times online. Latest news including sport, analysis, business, weather and more from the definitive brand of quality news in Ireland.

https://www.irishtimes.com/

Live: Russia shows military might during WW2 anniversary parade.

Live: Russia shows military might during WW2 anniversary parade.

RUSSIA shows off military might during lavish WW2 anniversary parade in Red Square. The annual parades mark the Russian victory over Nazi Germany at the end of World War 2 Read more: How Vladimir Putin is squaring up to the world with ‘my weapon’s...

The ekranoplan flying boat: Russia's 'Caspian Sea Monster' - Focus on Europe.

The ekranoplan flying boat: Russia's 'Caspian Sea Monster' - Focus on Europe.

A gigantic flying boat from Soviet times could bring tourists flocking to the Caspian Sea. Even if the 'monster' no longer flies, it is still very impressive. Subscribe: For more news go to: Follow DW on social media: ►Facebook: ►Twitter: ►Instagr...

Police search a house following an arrest in connection with murder of PCSO Julia James.

Police search a house following an arrest in connection with murder of PCSO Julia James.

FORENSIC officers at an address in Aylesham, Kent following the arrest of man in his 20s in connection with the murder of PCSO Julia James. Ms James, a popular community support officer, was found dead in Akholt Wood near her home in Snowdown, Ken...

In Full: Sophy Ridge on Sunday

In Full: Sophy Ridge on Sunday

Sophy Ridge reviews the new electoral map after 'Super Thursday' with Michael Gove, Shadow Scotland Secretary Ian Murray, Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey, Labour MP Diane Abbot and the SNP's Deputy Leader Keith Brown. SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube cha...

Diane Abbott says 'It's baffling' why Keir Starmer sacked Angela Rayner.

Diane Abbott says 'It's baffling' why Keir Starmer sacked Angela Rayner.

Former Labour frontbencher Diane Abbott says sacking Angela Rayner was "not a unifying thing for Sir Keir Starmer to do." She called for a return to the "popular policies" of the 2019 manifesto that led to Labour's worst election defeat since 1935...

More than 50 killed in blasts near Kabul girl's school - DW News.

More than 50 killed in blasts near Kabul girl's school - DW News.

An explosion outside a girls' school in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood of western Kabul on Saturday killed more than 50 people — all of them civilians, with most being young girls between the ages of 11 and 15. The blast left more than 100 people...