The recent resurgence of coronavirus in Israel following outbreaks at several schools, has not left Israelis indifferent. A day after the daily tally of COVID cases spiked higher than its been in months, many Israelis chose to avoid taking risks and put on face masks despite the mandate being lifted by health officials last week.
Israel's recent COVID surge is believed to have been caused by the entry of the Delta variant, which originated in India, due to a lack of enforcement at Ben-Gurion Airport - the country's main port of entry.
The Health Ministry said that over the past month thousands of travelers entered Israel from high-risk countries with spiking coronavirus rates. This resulted in COVID outbreaks at two schools in Modi'in and Binyamina, with Israel recording over 100 new, daily virus cases for the first time since Apri
“I have to wear a mask to feel safe,” said Nasha, who did not take off her mask throughout the whole bus ride from Petah Tikva to Tel Aviv on Wednesday morning.
Elisheva, who shared the bus ride with Nasha, also refused to get on the bus without a mask. “The Indian [COVID] variant is here, so the least we can do is to put on a mask,” she said.
“I think one should be vigilant about the number of patients, but not get hysterical,” Elisheva added. “I fear another infection wave... I hope there are enough responsible people to monitor the situation and take care of us.”
In malls around the country there were far more people wearing face masks on Wednesday than earlier this week. Those who chose to use masks, however, still appeared to be a minority.
Among the supporters of the face mask mandate is Orna Elner, who spent the day shopping at Dizengoff Mall in Tel Aviv. “I will continue to walk around with a mask wherever there are many people, such as buses, trains and planes,” she said.
“I'm a teacher, I would also love to wear a mask all winter long due to all the other ailments,” Elner added. “We can finally defend ourselves. It proved itself. I have not taken off my mask since the coronavirus pandemic started.”
Moti and Devorah Katz from Haifa removed their masks when the mandate was lifted on June 15. However, on Wednesday morning when they popped in to the local mall, they decided to put their masks back on for fear of an outbreak. "We are healthy people, but the fact is that there is another COVID outbreak. We do not believe it is over.
"The younger generation does what they think is right, and we do what we believe is right for us. Our friends also continue wearing masks. We all take caution seriously."
There are, however, many Israelis who refuse to put their masks back on until the mandate is reinstated.
Yehudit from Tel Aviv says she opposes reinstating the indoor mask mandate despite the recent rise in COVID cases. "I do not think [wearing a mask] should be forced, everyone can decide for themselves,” she said.
"It seems as though the current variant is less dangerous in terms of causing serious illness. So there is that,” she added.
Another person who refuses to put on his mask is Tomer from Ramat Gan, who says that he is ready to put his mask back on if the government decided to reinstate the mandate.
"I am not enthusiastic about it, but for the greater good it is better they order wearing masks. I am currently without a mask, but when they decide to enforce the mask mandate, I will wear mine.”