HONG KONG (AP) — 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 the requirement will end outdoors and indoors, including public transit, but some high-risk premises including hospitals and elderly homes can still require people to wear masks.
Lee’s announcement at a news briefing Tuesday came a day after the neighboring city Macao eased its mask rule and will bring the financial hub closer to the life in pre-pandemic days.
He 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 a mask in indoor and outdoor public areas. Violators could be fined 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($637).
Hong Kong had largely followed China’s “zero-COVID” strategy over the last three years and used to have 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 its economy and catch up with its rivals such as Singapore.