TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Rainbow flags billowed in the Mediterranean breeze as revellers poured onto Tel Aviv’s streets on Friday for the city’s annual Pride parade, though some voiced concerns over a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
Israel’s rapid vaccination drive enabled the sea-side march to go ahead after being cancelled last year over coronavirus concerns. An estimated 100,000 attended.
“It’s still surreal. It’s so crazy to see so many people outside, and the music, and happiness … I’m still getting used to it,” said Mor Eliezri, 26, one of a minority of marchers wearing a face mask.
Over 55% of Israel’s population is vaccinated, new COVID-19 infections have plummeted and the country has eased most health restrictions.
But a recent uptick in cases attributed to the highly-infectious Delta variant prompted health officials on Friday to mandate masks indoors again and recommend they be worn during large outdoor events – specifically mentioning the pride parade.
“There is a sense in Israel that everything is done, COVID is behind us. But it seems it’s not … will it ever end? I’m not so sure,” Eliezri said.
As crowds waved blue-and-white Israeli flags emblazoned with hearts and danced through the streets, some said the hardships endured during the pandemic had made them less afraid of a new outbreak.
“We overcame so many things, and we can overcome this too. It’s the reality of the world today,” said Maayan Sharet, 33.
“If we have (to) lockdown for a while, we’ll find a way to do it happily, and get back to life.”
(Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)