Face masks now mandatory for all Israelis going outdoors

Ministry of Health ramps up coronavirus measures and orders all citizens to wear masks when leaving their homes, but police will not yet be enforcing new rule.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

New rules that came into effect Sunday require all Israelis to wear a mask every time they leave their homes, although police will not yet be enforcing the new health regulation.

It is the latest health regulation in the Israeli government’s ongoing fight to stem the coronavirus infection rate. The education system was shut down a month ago, and except for those authorized to go to work or acquire essential needs like food and medicine, Israelis are restricted to stay within 100 meters (~100 yards) of their residences and meet no more than one other person at a time while keeping a safe distance.

“From Sunday morning, it is mandatory to wear masks outside the home,” said the guidelines published on the Ministry of Health website. “It is recommended to use a homemade cloth or a dedicated mask that is fitted tightly to the mouth and nose. Wash hands after touching the mask.”

There are some exceptions for the mask rule, including children under the age of six, drivers alone in their cars, and those with disabilities or who have difficulty using the mask.

However, with masks in short supply and being snapped off the shelves as soon as they appear, the ministry said any homemade covering was acceptable so long as it covered the mouth and nose.

Last week the Israel Consumer Council received complaints that some retailers were taking advantage of the public’s distress and charging excessive prices for masks, Globes reported. The council found that similar masks with the KN95 standard were being sold in prices ranging from 25 to 60 shekels ($7-to-$17).

Police have been enforcing rules banning group gatherings and have handed out thousands of fines to Israelis who continue to gather despite regulations banning activities that help spread the infection.

“The Ministry of Health is calling on the public to continue to cooperate with efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus and to remain at home,” the health ministry statement said. “The danger of the corona has not yet passed, so only if we all follow the guidelines can we prepare for a gradual exit from the closure.”