COVID: Masks are no longer required, but should we keep on wearing them?

Science and Health
As of Tuesday, the Health Ministry canceled the requirement to wear masks indoors. The few exceptions are medical facilities and nursing homes, individuals on their way to their location of quarantine and flight passengers.
But while masks are no longer mandatory, are there still situations where it is advisable to wear them? Prof. Nadav Davidovitch, director of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s School of Public Health, and Prof. Cyrille Cohen, head of Bar-Ilan University’s immunotherapy laboratory, offered their opinions.

Should vulnerable individuals continue to wear masks?

According to the experts, vulnerable individuals should continue to wear masks indoors and in crowded situations.
“While the masks are primarily intended to protect others from getting infected, they also offer protection to those who wear them, especially against infection that primarily circulates through droplets,” Cohen said. “For those who have a weakened immune system, it can be good to have an extra layer of protection, even if they are vaccinated, because the vaccine is not 100% effective, especially for these populations.”
This is especially true indoors, and it probably is going to be more relevant in the winter, he said.
Davidovitch said: “I believe that for people who are immunocompromised or elderly, it is a good idea to continue to wear a mask in crowded situations, regardless of COVID, because we see how effective they are in offering protection from various diseases.”

What about children in schools?

“If someone feels that they want to have an additional level of protection for their children, they can, but it is not required,” Davidovitch said, adding that masks also carry a price in terms of environmental sustainability and that they hide people’s faces, among other issues.
Cohen said: “At this stage, with such a low circulation of the virus in the country, I do not recommend for children to wear masks in schools, even though we have to remember that infections can happen, and they can transmit the virus to each other.”

And pregnant women?

“I would say pregnant women should continue to wear masks only if they are not vaccinated,” Cohen said. “If they are vaccinated, they should already be protected enough.”
Are there other situations where it is advisable to wear masks?

According to Davidovitch, if someone is sick with a cold, the flu or something similar, they should remain at home if possible. But if they need to go out, they should wear a mask. This is true also for people who believe they might be infected with the coronavirus but are not sure (once they are, they are required to enter isolation).
Should everyone continue to carry a mask with them in case they find themselves in a very crowded situation?
“Yes!” Cohen said. “I will continue to carry a mask in my pocket. I think it gives me a sense of security also psychologically. Especially when the winter comes again, I think it will become a habit for many, like it happens in certain Asian countries.”

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