Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday ordered all Israelis to wear face masks in public as part of the country’s efforts to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We ask you, citizens of Israel, all of you, to wear masks in the public sphere,” Netanyahu said in a televised speech, according to Reuters.
Netanyahu noted that individuals without access to factory-produced masks could improvise and use other material to cover their face. During the address, he also urged Israelis to spend the Jewish holiday of Passover with only immediate family members.
Israel has reported more than 5,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and 25 deaths stemming from it, according to a John’s Hopkins University database.
The virus is reportedly spreading rapidly in ultra-Orthodox communities, where many residents are ignoring the social distancing guidelines that advise against nonessential travel and prohibit meeting in groups.
Questions over whether individuals should wear face masks in public have mounted in recent months, as hospitals around the globe face shortages of masks and other necessary medical equipment. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) does not recommend that healthy people wear masks or coverings over their face in public.
The agency, however, has begun considering advising Americans to use cloth coverings instead of surgical and N95 masks when going out in public, according to The Washington Post.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday that the guidance was under “very serious consideration.”
“The thing that has inhibited that a bit is to make sure that we don’t take away the supply of masks from the health care workers who need them,” he said, noting that the guidance would only come once “we get in a situation where we have enough masks.”