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Hong Kong will lift its mask mandate Wednesday, its last major COVID restriction

Commuters wearing masks on the subway in Hong Kong
Commuters wearing masks browse their smartphones on a subway in Hong Kong.
(Andy Wong / Associated Press)
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Hong Kong will lift its mask mandate Wednesday, ending the city’s last major restriction imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city’s chief executive, John Lee, said masks would no longer be required both outdoors and indoors, including on public transit, but some high-risk areas such as hospitals and nursing 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.

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Lee said he made the decision because the city had not seen 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 greater normality would be beneficial to Hong Kong’s economic development and international competitiveness.

Grandchildren will be meeting their grandparents for the first time. Adults who have worried about elderly parents through the pandemic will finally be able to share a meal with them.

Dec. 20, 2022

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).

Some residents said they would 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-coronavirus 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.

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