Hong Kong (Finally) Ends Mask Mandates

The much-awaited rollback of Covid-19 measures is happening just in time for the Clockenflap music festival.

Hong Kong’s Central district after dark. (Photo: IMYT/Unsplash)

At a press conference this morning, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee made the surprise announcement to scrap the city’s long-running indoor and outdoor mask mandates from tomorrow, March 1. Lee said the decision was made “because of the overall assessment” of the public health situation. This comes shortly after neighboring Macau dropped its own requirements on wearing facial coverings outdoors, with operators of indoor venues allowed to adopt their own rules. The Hong Kong government previously said on February 22 that the general mask mandate would be extended until March 8 at least.

Starting Wednesday, masking up will no longer be necessary except in certain high-risk settings, namely hospitals and nursing homes. Facial coverings will become optional on public transport and at all schools, but daily rapid antigen tests for primary and kindergarten students will continue until March 14. Former journalist Aaron Busch, whose Twitter page is a popular source for up-to-the-minute coronavirus news in the city, wrote that it has been 959 days since Hong Kong’s mask-wearing regulations were first enacted in July 2020.

Local health authorities scrapped the vaccine requirement for international arrivals at the beginning of this month. With the removal of the mask mandate, pre-departure testing remains the sole Covid-19 restriction for anyone traveling to Hong Kong from places outside Mainland China or Macau. Visitors and returning residents must either undergo a PCR test within 48 hours of departure or a RAT less than 24 hours before their scheduled flight time.

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