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HK to scrap COVID mask mandate from Wednesday

By Shadow Li and Oasis Hu | | Updated: 2023-02-28 10:28
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Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu (left), accompanied by Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau, speaks to the media ahead of an Executive Council meeting on Feb 28, 2023. [Andy Chong/China Daily]

HONG KONG - Hong Kong will lift its mask mandate on Wednesday, signaling an end to all COVID-19 curbs in the city, the chief executive said on Tuesday, announcing full-on normalcy three years after the mandate came into effect.

"Time is right for the mask mandate to be scrapped," Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said to the media on Tuesday before the weekly Executive Council meeting.

The city will now focus on reviving its economy, boosting its development momentum, he added.

The government decided to lift it in one go considering that it would cause inconvenience to the residents if it is done in phases, Lee explained.

For high-risk venues such as hospitals and nursing homes, those in charge can require their staff and visitors to wear masks by issuing administrative instructions, he said.

The decision was made based on the statistics of the pandemic situation, which shows no sign of rebound, and the fact that Hong Kong has already built an extensive community defense wall against COVID-19, said Lee. Also the winter influenza has almost come to an end and the risk is under control, he added.

The mask-wearing mandate came into effect in July 2020, months after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the city.

Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau, who also joined the media briefing, said the government did not choose to lift the mark-wearing order in phases because partial retention cannot effectively prevent disease and is difficult to enforce in daily life.

The dropping of the mask mandate was applicable to both indoor and outdoor premises, he added.

Lo expected a slight increase in COVID-19 infection cases following the scrapping of the mask order. However, the overall risk in the city is controllable, he said.

He suggested the elderly, chronic patients, and people with underlying health conditions continue to wear face masks despite lifting of the mandate.

"After Hong Kong returns to full-on normalcy, I hope the city will be better tomorrow, and there is a smile on everyone's face," Lo said.

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