Wearing the protective coronavirus mask will no longer be mandatory outside in Israel from April 18, as part of the gradual lifting of restrictions linked to the pandemic, Israeli authorities announced Thursday evening.

The Hebrew state was one of the first countries in the spring of 2020 to impose the wearing of a sanitary mask in public places.

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“Possible to relax the measures”

“The masks are made to protect us from the coronavirus pandemic. But as the experts concluded that the mask was not necessary in the open air places, I decided to lift (the obligation to wear) the mask. “, said Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein in a statement.

“The infection rate is very low in Israel thanks to the success of the vaccination campaign, so it is possible to relax the measures”, he added, specifying that the mask remained however compulsory in closed public places. (shopping centers, etc.).

Vaccination of more than half of the population

The situation has changed in recent weeks thanks to a vast vaccination campaign that allowed the two necessary doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine to be administered to more than half (53%) of its 9.3 million inhabitants.

Israel launched this campaign at the end of December in favor of an agreement with the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which quickly delivered millions of doses in exchange for information on the effects of the vaccination. In particular, the country has databases on the medical history of its population.

The Hebrew state recorded a peak in mid-January of around 10,000 daily infections but they were below 200 these days, with a test positivity rate of 0.3%.

Israel and Pfizer have “proved that the Covid-19 pandemic can be defeated with a mass vaccination campaign,” Albert Bourla, CEO of the pharmaceutical giant, said on Wednesday in a video address broadcast on the occasion of the celebrations surrounding the 73rd anniversary (according to the Jewish calendar) of the independence of Israel.

This drop in contamination has already enabled the authorities to reopen restaurants, bars and beaches in early March. And the government unveiled a plan on Wednesday to allow the return of vaccinated foreign tourists from May 23, more than a year after closing its borders to leisure travelers.