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Israel said not planning to follow CDC in relaxing mask mandates for vaccinated

Israel currently has no plans to follow new US guidelines that relax mask-wearing requirements for people who are fully vaccinated, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidelines on Monday, saying that fully-vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing.

The recommendations also say that vaccinated people can come together in the same way with people considered at low-risk for severe disease, such as in the case of vaccinated grandparents visiting healthy children and grandchildren.

However, senior Israeli health ministry officials told Kan that Israel would not advocate similar steps yet, saying there was not yet enough information on whether or not vaccinated people could still transmit the virus.

Kan called the Israeli approach “very strict,” given clear evidence that the vaccines dramatically lower infections.

The issue is likely to come to the fore in a few weeks during the Passover holiday, when families traditionally gather for large, festive Seder meals.

Last year’s holiday was celebrated under Israel’s first — and tightest — coronavirus lockdown, with many elderly forced to celebrate alone.

Channel 12 news reported, without citing a source, that Health Ministry officials have started discussions on whether to make it easier for families to gather.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told Channel 12 on Sunday that he hoped families would be able to celebrate Passover together at the end of the month.

“I very much hope we will be able to be with the whole family… I am hopeful, and this is a hope with a pretty good basis… that with proper conduct [by the public], we will be able to avoid more lockdowns. I really do ask everyone to help us with this,” Edelstein said.

The CDC issued its guidance to address a growing demand, as more adults have been getting vaccinated and wondering if it gives them greater freedom to visit family members, travel, or do other things that they had done before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world last year.

“We know that people want to get vaccinated so they can get back to doing the things they enjoy with the people they love,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, in a statement.

The CDC is continuing to recommend that fully vaccinated people continue to wear well-fitted masks, avoid large gatherings, and physically distance themselves from others when out in public.

The CDC also advised vaccinated people to get tested if they develop symptoms that could be related to COVID-19.

Officials say a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose of vaccine.

About 30 million Americans — or only about nine percent of the US population — have been fully vaccinated with a federally authorized COVID-19 vaccine so far, according to the CDC.

In Israel, the percentage is much higher. On Monday Israel vaccinated its five millionth citizen against the coronavirus as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu predicted that the entire adult population would be inoculated by the end of April.

Of the five million who have now had the first vaccine dose, 3,789,118 have also had the second, according to Health Ministry figures released Monday. I

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak early last year, 803,260 people have been diagnosed with the virus and there are 37,698 active patients.

Out of Israel’s 9.3 million total population, some three million, including children and recovered, were not initially eligible to be vaccinated. Israel announced last week it would start giving the recovered a single shot.

The prime minister also said Monday he had been in contact with Pfizer and the company will soon announce a vaccine that is approved for use on children.

Source: TOI