HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong will lift its mask mandate on Wednesday, ending the city’s last major restriction imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city’s chief executive, John Lee, said masks will no longer be required both outdoors and indoors, including on public transit, but some high-risk areas including hospitals and elderly homes can still require their use.
Lee’s announcement at a news briefing Tuesday came a day after neighboring Macao eased its mask rule and brings the financial hub closer to life in pre-pandemic days.
Lee said he made the decision because the city did not see a rebound in infections and has built an immunity barrier.
“In order to give people a very clear message that Hong Kong is resuming normalcy, I think this is the right time to make the decision,” he said.
He said the return to normalcy would be beneficial to Hong Kong’s economic development and international competitiveness.
For most of the pandemic, people in Hong Kong have been required to wear masks in indoor and outdoor public areas. Violators could be fined 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($637).
But some Hong Kong citizens said they will continue to wear a mask despite the lifting of the rule.
“Even though now the government says you don’t have to have a mask from tomorrow, I’ve still got masks at home, and am still a bit worried about the pandemic situation, so probably I will continue to wear them for a little while,” Harrison Yau said.
Hong Kong had largely followed mainland China’s “zero COVID” strategy over the last three years and had some of the world’s strictest anti-virus rules. In the last six months, the government has taken bigger steps to open up in an attempt to revive the economy and catch up with rivals such as Singapore.