Israel makes masks in public compulsory

The Israeli government says wearing face masks will be required in public from Sunday.
The Israeli government says wearing face masks will be required in public from Sunday.

The Israeli government has issued orders making the wearing of masks in public compulsory to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

It also approved a timeline for tightened travel restrictions for the Passover holiday, which begins on Wednesday when Jewish families gather for the festive "seder" meal commemorating the Biblical exodus from slavery in Egypt.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that this year, the dinner should be a small affair - limited to household members - in a bid to keep infection rates in check.

Netanyahu last week urged Israelis to wear masks while in public, a measure the government said would become compulsory as of Sunday.

Children under the age of six, the mentally disabled or those alone in vehicles or workplaces are exempted.

The government said masks could be homemade.

From Tuesday evening until Friday morning, a ban on unnecessary out-of-town travel will be in place, effectively preventing large gatherings of family and friends for the seder meals.

From 3pm on Wednesday, a few hours before the meal gets underway, until 7am on Thursday, food shopping within towns will also be forbidden, in a tightened lockdown.

Announcing an exemption in the Passover restrictions, a government statement said the seder night shopping ban would not apply to "non-Jewish minorities", a reference to Arab citizens who are mostly Muslims with a Christian minority.

Australian Associated Press