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Schools reopening and no more mask-wearing outdoors as Israel praises its vaccination campaign

The nationwide ban on going outside without an obligatory mask lifts on Sunday. All schools, from daycare to 12th grade, will also fully reopen, having been partly closed for over a year. Most classes will be held in pre-pandemic conditions, with no social-distancing requirements, but students will still have to wear masks indoors, except when in a school gym or canteen. 

Face coverings in indoor public spaces remain obligatory, and health officials also recommend the wearing of a mask when attending a large outdoor gathering. “We must behave correctly in order not to scuttle the progress made,” the chief of Israel’s health ministry, Chezy Levy has warned.

The state is “taking risks” in easing anti-Covid measures, particularly in schools, cautioned the official, who reminded citizens that 20 percent of teachers have still not been vaccinated. Children under 16 are not currently allowed to be inoculated, but permission may be given next month, with a suggestion being floated that there may be a program to vaccinate those aged 12 to 15 years old. 

It may take some time to adapt to the return of full-time learning, Israel’s education ministry has admitted. “A return to routine is accompanied by a fear of gaps that have been created,” the ministry stated in a letter cited by the Jerusalem Post, adding: “The fear of the coronavirus, which has not yet left the world, also hovers from above.

More than 5.3 million Israelis have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and nearly five million – which is more than half of the population – have been fully inoculated with two shots, according to the health ministry. Out of over 14,000 people tested for the virus, some 100 positive cases were diagnosed on Friday, which is around 0.7 percent of the tested samples, officials said. There are presently around 2,600 active cases of Covid-19 in the country. 

Having started its vaccination campaign in December last year, Israel is among those countries making the fastest immunization progress per capita. It mainly uses the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, having reportedly agreed to share the medicine’s impact data with its producer.  

The rate of infection in Israel is very low, thanks to the successful vaccine campaign … and therefore it is possible to ease [restrictions],” the AFP news agency cited Health Minister Yuli Edelstein as saying. He has also referred to Israel as the first vaccinated state, according to local media.

Earlier this week, Israel announced it would allow vaccinated foreign tourists arriving in groups to enter the country from late May onwards. They will be required to undergo a PCR test before boarding an Israel-bound plane, and to prove vaccination or recovery from Covid-19 on arrival at Ben Gurion Airport.

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