Israel will leave in place its mask mandate in public spaces for the foreseeable future despite the success of the country's COVID-19 vaccination campaign and the consequent fall in coronavirus morbidity, Health Ministry Director General Prof. Hezi Levi said on Thursday.
According to Levi, one of the reasons behind the decision was that the vaccine was still unavailable to children and teens under the age of 16.
“A vaccinated person can also be a source [of coronavirus infections] if those around them are without a mask and are not inoculated,” Levi said.
“This goes doubly for children under 16 who are certainly not yet vaccinated. That is why we're not thinking currently about abolishing the mask mandate.”
However, Levi added he was encouraged by recent data showing that the country’s daily infection rate has dipped to its lowest in three months.
He further said that the ministry was making efforts to monitor and prevent the spread of the virus in the country's recently opened education system after hundreds of students and teaching staff were forced to self-isolate after being exposed to a COVID-19 patient in educational institutions.
The ministry was also considering opening schools in communities with high coronavirus infection rates if large parts of the teaching staff get vaccinated.
Levi said children he believed children will be eligible to get the vaccine around the summer months, “pending successful medical trials by vaccine manufacturers.”
According to a Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center report, the pathogen's reproduction (R) number has slumped from 1 to 0.85 within several days, signing that the pandemic in Israel was on the decline.
"The vaccination campaign is starting to bear fruit. The number of verified cases is in a steady decline and the number of patients in critical condition is also decreasing slowly,” the report said. “However, infections are is still widespread there is no room for complacency.”