Hong Kong will abolish Covid mask rules for both indoors and outdoors from Wednesday in three years

Hong Kongers will be able to walk the streets without masks for the first time in almost three years.  (Photo: Sam Tsang)

Hong Kongers will be able to walk the streets without masks for the first time in almost three years. (Photo: Sam Tsang)

Hong Kong citizens and tourists can go mask-free from Wednesday

At a media session before the executive board meeting on Tuesday, chief executive John Lee Kachiu said the city’s indoor and outdoor mask requirements, as well as those on public transport, will be phased out from March 1. Announced.

However, some facilities with administrative functions, such as nursing homes and hospitals, will still require the wearing of face coverings, he added.

Li also repeatedly avoided questions about whether his announcement was prompted by neighboring city Macau’s decision to lift general outdoor mask-wearing rules from Monday.

“My decision was based on the overall assessment and the factors considered,” he said. “Two months ago I told people that this was an issue that I would be actively monitoring and considering when the time would be right. [to lift the mandate].”

City leaders said the move was based on the convergence of the local coronavirus situation and the surge in cases of influenza and other respiratory viruses.

“The data showed that the epidemic situation in the region was under control and there was no major rebound. Hong Kong has already built a broad and comprehensive immune barrier,” Li said, adding that hospitals and other high-risk areas were not affected. It added that there were no outbreaks in the risk population. Patients and staff, or schools and care homes for the elderly.

Lee also said the epidemic situation in Hong Kong has not worsened as a result of the coronavirus’ mutation.

“Overall risks are contained. Now is the right time to cancel mask orders completely,” he said.

“We are starting to get back to normal in a comprehensive way.

Health Minister Lo Chung-mau said lifting the mask requirement means Hong Kong is returning to normal.

“The lifting of mask mandates means the official end of all social distancing measures. I hope tomorrow March 1st will be a better day. You can say, ‘Hong Kong,'” Lo said. It refers to the government’s recent global campaign to attract visitors to the city.

Law explained that the authorities had decided to change the policy all at once, rather than gradually.

“The epidemic prevention effect of keeping the order of masks [in some places] is not big. Also, enforcing the rules is rather complex and difficult, and inconvenient for the public,” he said.

The minister added that the Health Protection Center will issue guidelines for people with respiratory symptoms or long-term illnesses on wearing masks in poorly ventilated areas.

Hong Kong’s mask mandate came into effect in July 2020 and is being updated regularly, with the latest review allowing for an extension of the policy until March 8th.

Under the soon-to-be-repeated policy, people who visit rural parks or engage in strenuous physical activity are exempt from wearing face coverings outdoors.

Lee has previously said mask mandates should continue until the warmer months out of fear of a resurgence of the flu.

Ahead of Li’s official announcement, the government’s pandemic adviser Professor Lau Yulung said the “long-awaited” lifting of the policy would be “welcome to all of Hong Kong”.

Expressing his support for the government’s decision to scrap the mandate once and for all, he argued that the move would be easier to implement and easier for the public to understand than gradual easing.

Mr Lau added that he believed people would wear masks on public transport without direction from authorities. “We should believe in our residents’ ability to manage their health and assess their safety,” he said.

But health experts said some young people grew up wearing masks, so more focus needs to be on helping children adapt to the changes.

“It takes time to explain to them that not wearing a mask is normal,” he said. “They might be worried. We should let them decide whether to wear it or not rather than force it.”

Lau also called on residents to respect each other’s choices about whether to wear a mask.

Under Macau’s revised regulations, most indoor facility supervisors have discretion over whether or not visitors wear covers, but authorities are not allowing visitors to stay inside while on public transport or in hospitals. and nursing homes still require the use of covers.

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