Israel Drops Outdoor Mask Order, Though Other COVID-19 Rules Still Apply

The early signs of the changing pandemic are finally emerging around the world.

Israel eased some of its COVID-19 protocols on Sunday, according to Reuters. The country has officially lifted part of its mask mandate, allowing citizens to freely enjoy the outdoors without face coverings.

This decision is a result of the vaccine roll out in the country. According to Reuters, about 81 percent of Israelis over the age of 16 have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine (namely Pfizer/BioNTech), which has caused hospitalizations and cases to drop dramatically.

While the dropping of the outdoor mask mandate is great news, the Israeli government is still proceeding with caution. "We are leading the world right now when it comes to emerging from the coronavirus," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Reuters. "[But] we have still not finished with the coronavirus. It can return."

"Being without a mask for the first time in a long time feels weird. But it's a very good weird," 19-year-old Amitai Hallgarten told Reuters. "If I need to be masked indoors to finish with this — I'll do everything I can."

Israel's Health Ministry still mandates that masks must be worn indoors and travel to the country by foreigners is still very limited. Israelis returning to the country from abroad must also self-isolate.

Starting in late May, the country will allow limited entry to vaccinated tourists, according to Reuters. All travelers must have a negative PCR test before boarding a flight to the country, as well as submitting to an additional test to prove vaccination upon arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport.

As with any destination, it's important to check health and safety guidelines, including travel restrictions, in Israel before booking a trip. Some foreign citizens may be asked to self-isolate or apply for a permit to enter the country, according to the U.S. Embassy in Israel.

Andrea Romano is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @theandrearomano.

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