Hong Kong to end mask mandate after 3 years
Hong Kong will lift the mask mandate in public places, its last major COVID-19 restriction, on Wednesday after nearly three years. Hong Kong's Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu announced that no mask will be required indoors or outdoors, as well as on public transport. However, high-risk spaces such as those with administrative functions, nursing homes for the elderly, and hospitals would still require it.
Why does this story matter?
- Hong Kong—a Special Administrative Region governed by China—dropped other COVID-19 restrictions earlier this year.
- The city's economy, which was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, is now looking to attract tourists and foreign workers.
- Next month, it'll hold a series of international events and a festival.
- The city had been shut down since 2019, even before the pandemic, owing to several violent anti-government protests.
Hong Kong to give away 5 lakh air tickets
Starting Wednesday, the city administration will give away five lakh air tickets as part of its "Hello Hong Kong" tourism campaign. In January, the number of passengers at the Hong Kong airport remained at one-third compared to four years earlier. Its economy shrank by 3.5% in 2022, which was the third consecutive year of contraction.
Hong Kong had imposed fines up to HK$10,000 for violations
Hong Kong implemented the mask mandate on July 29, 2020, making it one of the last places in the world to do so. For breaking the rule, fines of up to HK$10,000 ($1,275) were imposed. Reportedly, the police frequently slapped HK$5,000 penalties on transgressors on the spot. The city's population declined by 1.87 lakh in three years as many residents moved to other places.
City returning to normalcy: Officials
Lee said Hong Kong's COVID-19 situation is under control. The surge in cases of influenza and other respiratory infections has also ebbed, owing to a wide immunity barrier. At one point, the city mandated masks even when exercising. However, Lee refrained from answering when asked if the decision to scrap the mask mandate was influenced by the neighboring city Macao's similar move.