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Hong Kong to scrap COVID mask mandate from March 1

February 28, 2023

Hong Kong to scrap COVID mask mandate from March 1


HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong will lift the COVID-19 mask rule, Chief Executive Lee Ka-kit said on Tuesday, a move to lure tourists and businesses back and restore normal life in the financial center more than three years after the strict rule was first imposed.


The measure will take effect on Wednesday, Lee said at a news conference. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is one of the last places in the world where wearing masks is still mandatory.


For most of the past three years, Hong Kong and Macau have followed China's zero new coronary pneumonia policy. Hong Kong began relaxing its strict new-crown pneumonia rules last year, but the wearing of masks has remained unchanged since 2020.


"We think this is the best time to make this decision. It's a clear message that Hong Kong is getting back to normal."


In high-risk places such as hospitals, managers can decide whether to require staff and visitors to wear masks, he said.


The neighboring Macau Special Administrative Region said Feb. 26 that mask requirements related to COVID - 19 will be lifted in most places, except for public transportation, hospitals and a few other areas.


In mainland China, residents are not required to wear masks outdoors, but authorities are encouraging them to wear masks in public indoor areas such as airports and train stations.


Hong Kong moved to abolish masks this month after the government launched a campaign called "Hello Hong Kong" to attract tourists and businesses that have stayed away from the former British colony since 2020.


Hong Kong has been strict about mask regulations, even in schools, where even 2-year-old children are required to wear masks outdoors. Many students and teachers are concerned about the impact this has on learning and child development.


Students are still required to take a daily rapid antigen test to check for COVID - 19, although authorities announced last week that the test will be eliminated for secondary school students as of March 1 and for elementary schools and child care centers as of March 15.


Business groups, diplomats and many residents have slammed Hong Kong's new coronary pneumonia regulations, saying they threaten the city's competitiveness and status as an international financial center.