Israel’s nationwide outdoor mask mandate was lifted Sunday, and school children returned to the classroom for the first time in almost a year. Officials attribute the easing of the safety measures to the high rate of immunizations among the country’s 9.3 million people. Nearly 80 percent of the nation’s five million adults are reported to have been vaccinated. Daily COVID-19 cases have plummeted from a high of 12,000 a day on January 27th to only a couple hundred new cases a day currently.
The seven-day average goes down nearly every day. Over the past seven days: 202, 180, 160, 167, 159, 154, 136. And all this, while businesses and schools are open again. By all accounts, the vaccine is effective and safe, at least in the short term.
“The rate of infection in Israel is very low thanks to the successful vaccine campaign in Israel, and therefore it is possible to ease (restrictions),” according to Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s Health Minister.
Officials remain cautious and urge diligence as the country continues to open up. A troublesome COVID-19 variant from India recently surfaced in Israel, as citizens are returning from abroad, and the Holy Land is preparing to welcome vaccinated tourists again at the end of May.
“We are leading the world right now when it comes to emerging from the coronavirus,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “(But) we have still not finished with the coronavirus. It can return.”
On Sunday, the prime minister visited with a group of 7th graders returning to the classroom after studying in smaller “capsules” of student groupings for close to a year. The school week in Israel is Sunday through Thursday.
“We are on a festive day of opening the education system,” Netanyahu remarked after his time with the children. “We are currently leading the world in getting out of the corona(virus). Resumption of studies also in the middle schools is a clear indication of that.”
While Israelis can move about outside without a mask now, protective face coverings are still required for indoor and large gatherings. Also, for those who have not been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, the controversial “green pass” remains in place, which limits access to communal areas such as gyms, indoor dining, and cultural and worship activities.
Most Messianic leaders are not comfortable segregating their congregations and have looked for alternative ways to bring their congregations together, such as meeting outside.