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Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

Health expert renews call to lift mask mandate

Health expert renews call to lift mask mandate

Top microbiologist Ho Pak-leung on Monday again called on the HKSAR government to put an end to the compulsory mask wearing rule, citing the city’s strong herd immunity barrier.
His comments came one day after Macau officials declared an end to the city’s general mask mandate, with face masks to be required in only a handful of specific circumstances.

Under rules taking effect on Monday, people will not be expected to wear masks outdoors, while supervisors of most indoor venues will have discretion over whether to require masking.

Exceptions include public transport, with both passengers and drivers expected to continue to mask up, though the rule will not apply to taxis. People entering hospitals or care homes will also be required to wear a mask, though inpatients and residents will be allowed to go maskless.

Speaking on a radio program this morning, Ho said Hong Kong has already achieved a high degree of herd immunity barrier, in which authorities could remove the mask mandate ‘anytime’.

Meanwhile, he said Macau’s move had offered citizens clear directions as to when they would need their masks, though he believed a number of people would keep their masks on after the removal of the rule.

The health expert said in the past two weeks, Hong Kong’s daily new severe Covid cases and deaths have remained at single digits, with its impact similar to the seasonal flu.

Along with the mask mandate, he said the daily rapid test requirement for medical workers and visitors of hospitals could also be lifted in the short term.

Ho also suggested that the city’s vaccination program could shift its focus to high-risk groups rather than inoculating the whole population.

Meanwhile, according to people familiar with the matter, Hong Kong might scrap its mask mandate as soon as early March. Indoor and outdoor mask requirements may be removed simultaneously, though face coverings will still need to be worn at high-risk places including hospitals, the source added.

The city last week extended mask regulations by two weeks to March 8.

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