Hong Kong May Scrap Mask Mandate By Early March, Report Says - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong might scrap its mask mandate as soon as early March, according to people familiar with the matter, a major step as one of the world’s last Covid holdouts works to reclaim its status as a global business hub.
An announcement may come as soon as Tuesday, the people said.
Indoor and outdoor mask requirements may be removed at the same time, though face coverings will still need to be worn at high-risk places including hospitals, they said, asking not to be identified as they’re not authorized to speak publicly.
When asked for comment, the health bureau referred Bloomberg to recent remarks from health secretary Lo Chung-mau.
Lo said in a Commercial Radio program on Saturday that authorities are examining data and plan to relax the mask mandate at a suitable time.
Ming Pao and the South China Morning Post both reported earlier that the mandates would be lifted next month, though there was no consensus on exactly when.
Hong Kong to Give Away 500,000 Air Tickets to Revive Tourism
Hong Kong last week extended mask regulations by two weeks to March 8, even as it kicked off its pricey “Hello Hong Kong” campaign aimed at luring back visitors. The city is working to bolster its global footing again, giving away air tickets to tourists and again hosting VIP events including Art Basel — but masks have remained a deterrent and undermined the idea that everything is back to normal.
The measures began almost three years ago as the city fought to keep the virus at bay, and have remained in place even as most of the world drops pandemic-era restrictions. They’re Hong Kong’s last pandemic restrictions, after the city eased most virus curbs and reopened to the world in December following China’s pivot away from Covid Zero.
Neighboring casino hub Macau eased its own outdoor mask policy starting Monday, saying its Covid situation was stable.
Hong Kong leader John Lee has repeatedly said he hopes to remove the rule after the winter surge ends, but hasn’t given further specifics.
--With assistance from Sarah Zheng.
(Updates with expected announcement timing in second paragraph.)