As the pandemic continues to slump across Israel, the country's top coronavirus health official, Prof. Nachman Ash, said on Monday he estimated that the outdoor mask mandate will be scrapped by next week.
Health Ministry officials voted for the move at a meeting Sunday morning.
"There will be an additional hearing on the issue in the coming days and then we will make the final decision," Ash said. "I estimate that our recommendation will come into effect and we will be able to stop wearing masks outdoors by next week, I hope."
Ash noted, however, that face masks will still be required indoors and during mass public gatherings.
"It is still too early. We have yet to discuss this. We want to see how we get through this phase and move forward from there," he said.
"It all depends on morbidity and infection data, we will examine them and make a decision in accordance."
Ash said that although the virus' reproduction (R) number rose to 0.71 Monday, he is not worried, adding that this is expected following the holiday of Passover.
Last week, BioNTech/Pfizer announced their vaccine showed 100 percent efficacy against the coronavirus in 12 to 15-year-olds.
In response, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that as soon as the vaccine is given FDA approval for that age group — estimated to be around May — Israel will begin vaccinating adolescents.
Asked about how officials will deal with parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, Ash said that although it is a more complex situation, adding that educating parents about the dangers of the pathogen is the best way.
"Parents will understand that this action is what's best for the children in preventing morbidity," he said. "Illness is far more dangerous than the vaccine on every level."
Ash said that there was still no decision whether to roll out vaccines to adolescents similarly to adults, estimating that it will be a joint endeavor between schools and Israel's health funds.