Israel lifts outdoor mask mandate with 80% of population vaccinated

We are leading the world right now," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. But "we have still not finished with the coronavirus."

Israel's outdoor mask mandate was lifted Sunday amid reports that 80% of the country's population has received both doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccination. 

For many months, masks were required while anywhere indoors or outdoors in public – except for when exercising. Now that nearly 5 million people have been vaccinated, health officials are beginning to ease restrictions in the country, starting with the outdoor mask mandate. 

"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]," Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said in a statement. 

While other countries lag behind in vaccination efforts, Israel became one of the first countries to introduce a "green-pass" needed for residents to have access to close-contact places like gyms, concerts and restaurants.

Still, Israel will still require anyone who enters the country to isolate for a period of time – amid a variant has been detected among seven recent COVID-19 cases.

"We are leading the world right now when it comes to emerging from the coronavirus,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters. But "we have still not finished with the coronavirus. It can return."