Hong Kong drops mask mandate after nearly three years

hong kong

Hong Kong, one of the last major international cities to require face masks, announced on Tuesday that it would end its controversial mandate nearly three years after it was enacted to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The mandate, enforced by fines of up to more than $1,000, had required face coverings in all public spaces, including outdoors, indoors and on public transportation. At one time, it had even been mandatory when exercising outdoors.

The rule went into effect on July 15, 2020, although the vast majority of city residents had started wearing masks months earlier as reports of coronavirus infections spread, leading to panic buying and shortages as early as January of this year.

The mandate will be fully lifted on Wednesday, City Leader John Lee said at a news conference on Tuesday.

“We are now returning to normalcy,” Lee said, as the Asian financial hub launches a major effort to welcome business travelers and tourists back.

Hong Kong has rolled back several other major controls in recent months, including mandatory quarantine for all international arrivals, in a move that is expected to boost tourism.

Speaking at the same press conference, Health Secretary Lo Mau-chung said that with the lifting of the mask mandate, “we have now removed all epidemic restrictions.”

“I can’t wait to see a smile on everyone’s face now,” he said. However, he added, there are still recommendations in place to wear masks in “high risk” areas such as nursing homes and hospitals.

Most other places in Asia have fully or partially relaxed their mask mandates in recent months, including South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

The World Health Organization still recommends that health workers wear masks, with Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for the WHO’s Covid response, warning that the virus was “circulating pretty much unchecked around the world right now. moment”.

This is a developing story.


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