Hong Kong extends mask mandate until March 8, experts say flu risk high

A masked Hong Konger in Central.Photo: Jonathan Wong

A masked Hong Konger in Central.Photo: Jonathan Wong

Hong Kong has extended mask mandates until March 8, but experts said the rules should remain in place for the time being as the population is vulnerable to the flu.

Health officials announced Wednesday the extensions that will apply to public transport, MTR toll areas and public spaces. Violators will be fined HK$5,000 (US$637) on the spot.

CEO John Lee Kachiu previously said the government would actively consider removing mask mandates after the winter flu season.

Leung Chi-chiu, a respiratory specialist, advised Wednesday not to lift the rules because of vulnerability to influenza.

“There have been very few cases of influenza in the last three years, and herd immunity to influenza is at a very low level, especially among young children,” he argued. ), we must keep our masks.”

The Department of Education announced Tuesday that daily RAT requirements for middle school students will be lifted from next Wednesday. However, the same measures for primary schools, kindergartens and special schools will continue until March 15.

Leung suggested lifting the requirement for outdoor masks before the authorities scrap the measures altogether.

Three years after the pandemic, Hong Kong is one of the few cities in the world that still mandates the wearing of masks outdoors. In mainland China, masks are only required indoors.

In January, Health Secretary Lo Chun Mau said he hoped people would continue to wear masks during the winter flu season because face coverings played an important role in fighting infections.

Seasonal flu levels in Hong Kong remain low, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Health.

During the week from 5 to 11 February, private practices detected 32.4 influenza cases per 1000 visits.

As of 11 February, 4 cases of severe influenza have been recorded, including 1 case <17 years, 1 case 18-49 years, and 2 cases >65 years.

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