Hong Kong ends the order to wear masks after nearly 3 years

HHong Kong will stop requiring face masks in public places from Wednesday, nearing the end of a protracted Covid era that has taken a toll on its economy and standing in the world.

Hong Kong leader John Lee told reporters on Tuesday that masks would no longer be needed outdoors, indoors or on public transport.

“From tomorrow, we will be completely back to normal,” Lee said. “This year and next, we will focus on economics and development.”

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The move comes as the government seeks to attract tourists and foreign workers to revive the financial hub. Next month, Hong Kong will host the biggest series of international events since often violent protests in 2019 forced much of the city to shut down, including a music festival, Art Basel and a music festival. Rugby Sevens match. Hong Kong dropped most other pandemic restrictions earlier this year.

People are required to wear masks in all public places, including outdoors, from July 29, 2020. This rule is enforced by fines of up to HK$10,000 (1,275). US dollars), of which the police regularly fined the violators HK$5,000 on the spot.

Hong Kong is one of the last places on Earth where face masks are mandatory. At one stage, masks were required even during exercise. The rule is increasingly frustrating with Hong Kong’s efforts to weather the pandemic and attract visitors. As part of the Hello Hong Kong campaign, the city will give away more than half a million airline tickets starting Wednesday.

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The number of tourists is still low. In January, passenger traffic at the Norman Foster-designed airport was only a third of what it was four years earlier. This compares with 77% for Singapore.

The past three years of global isolation have weighed heavily on Hong Kong’s economy and reputation. The economy shrinks by 3.5% in 2022, the third contraction in four years. The population fell by 187,000 in the three years to 2022 as residents fled to other cities.

With support from Shirley Zhao

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