Hong Kong, one of the major international cities to require face coverings, announced on Tuesday that it will phase out the controversial Covid mask mandate, enacted nearly three years ago to prevent the spread of the virus. The ruling, enforced through fines of up to $1,000, required facial coverings in all public places.
The rule took effect for public transit on July 15, 2020, and it got expanded after two weeks to include indoor and outdoor areas, despite a majority of people in the city had started wearing masks months prior as reports of coronavirus infections spread, starting to cause panic for buying with shortages as early as January 2021
On Wednesday. The mandate will be fully lifted, according to the city’s leader, John Lee, during a news conference on Tuesday, marking 959 days from the transportation rule.
Lee said, “We are now returning to normalcy,” as the Asian financial hub as he launches a major campaign to entice business travelers and tourists to return. In recent months, the city has relaxed several other major controls, most notably mandatory quarantine for all international arrivals, a move applauded by residents desperate for travel, overseas family members, and struggling local businesses.
At the same news conference on Tuesday, Health Secretary Lo Mau-Chung stated, “With the removal of the mask mandate. Now they have removed all epidemic restrictions.”
For much of the pandemic, Hong Kong had the untenable position distinction of having some of the most rigorous standards pandemic policies in the world, such as the strict quarantine, which at one point considered necessary up to 21 days of isolation in a hotel, with no guests allowed and the windows locked shut.
Authorities argued with the isolation period as reducing imported cases and eliminating local transmission was necessary. It was previously one of the criteria for reopening the border with China. They had adhered to a strict zero-Covid policy till it was abruptly reopened at the end of last year.