Hong Kong (CNN) One of the last major global cities to require face coverings announced on Tuesday that it would end its controversial Covid mask mandate nearly three years after it was enacted to prevent the spread of the virus.
Hong Kong to delegateimposed by fines that could reach more than $1,000, required face coverings in all public spaces.
The rule went into effect for public transportation on July 15, 2020 and was expanded two weeks later to indoor and outdoor areas – even though the vast majority of people in the city had started wearing masks months earlier as reports of coronavirus infection spread, leading to to panic buying and shortages as early as January of that year.
The mandate will be lifted in full on Wednesday — 959 days since the transportation law was imposed, city leader John Lee said at a news briefing on Tuesday.
“Now we’re getting back to normal,” Li said, as the Asian financial hub launches a major campaign to welcome back business and leisure travelers.
Hong Kong has it Undo many other key controls In recent months, most notably mandatory quarantine For all international arrivals, a move celebrated by travel-hungry residents, family members abroad and struggling local businesses.
Speaking at the same press conference on Tuesday, Health Minister Lu Maozhong said that with the lifting of the mask mandate, “we have now removed all epidemic restrictions.”
“I look forward to seeing the smile on everyone’s face now,” he said. But he added that the government still advised the wearing of masks in “high-risk” settings such as nursing homes and hospitals.
Most other places in Asia have fully or partially relaxed 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, the WHO’s technical chief for the Covid response, warning that the virus is “proliferating largely unchecked throughout the world at the moment”.
For much of the pandemic, Hong Kong held the unenviable title of having some The most stringent pandemic policies in the world — such as the strict quarantine, which at one point required up to 21 days of isolation in a hotel room, with no visitors allowed and windows closed.
Authorities argued the isolation period was necessary to reduce imported cases and eliminate local transmission – previously one of the necessary criteria for reopening the city’s border with mainland China, which has adhered to a strict agreement. Zero covid policy Until it suddenly reopened at the end of last year.
The mask mandate has also drawn criticism at times; In July 2020, during the height of the humid and hot summer in Hong Kong, the government expanded the mandate to include masks even when exercising outdoors. She retracted just weeks later amid public outcry, acknowledging that people had been “turned away from exercise” because of the rule.
“Face masks have played an important role in reducing community transmission in Hong Kong, but now that almost everyone has been vaccinated and most people have also been infected, dropping the legal mandate is too late,” said Karen Greiban, associate professor at the university. From the Hong Kong School of Public Health.
“People can now do their own risk assessment to decide whether or not they want to wear one.”
“General web ninja. Total explorer. Problem solver. Unapologetic troublemaker. Coffee guru. Pop culture maven. Student. Organizer.”
Pope Francis has been hospitalized with a respiratory infection
A huge scale dilemma for South Africa
Swiss court case linking human rights to climate change