Desperate for tourists Hong Kong finally goes mask-free

Hong Kong administration will end the city’s mandatory COVID-19 mask-wearing requirement tomorrow, March 1

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (HKSAR) started to remove some of its harsh COVID-19 restrictions last year, following Beijing’s lead in easing zero-Covid policy measures, but the city’s mandatory mask-wearing had remained in place for much of the last three years.

But starting tomorrow, one of the last major international metropolises to continue to enforce a mask-wearing mandate will finally end the policy.

Recently, many local business groups and citizens had expressed criticism of Hong Kong’s COVID-19 safety restrictions amid concerns of the negative impact they would have on international competitiveness, as well as to city’s standing as a global financial hub.

The announcement of the policy change, which takes effect on March 1, was made today by the city’s leader John Lee, who said that Hong Kong seeks to resume attracting international enterprise and tourism, and ditching the mask mandate will provide a boost to economic development in the Special Administrative Region.

“The overall risk is under control,” the city’s chief executive, announced at today’s press-conference. “It is now a suitable time to fully cancel the mask order.”

“We are starting to resume normalcy comprehensively, and that will be very beneficial to economic development, our international competitiveness, as well as our activities which involve everyone in Hong Kong,” Lee added.

The final say in whether to require facial coverings in the city’s high-risk areas such as hospitals or elderly care homes will be left to local administrators.

The drastic city policy changes come after the launch of the ‘Hello Hong Kong’ promotional campaign which is designed to attract tourism and international commerce to the Special Administrative Region after both sectors struggled since the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

According to the city’s officials, Hong Kong received over 500,000 international visitors in January – a figure three times higher than in December 2022.

Another China’s Special Administrative Region, Macau, announced over the weekend that it would be ending the facial mask requirement in ‘many locations,’ with the exception of ‘high-risk areas’ and public transportation networks.

Residents of Mainland China are no longer required to wear masks, but are encouraged to do so in busy public indoor areas.

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