March 1, 2023
BEIJING – Hong Kong residents on Tuesday expressed their support for and welcomed the long-awaited decision to scrap the mask-wearing mandate, saying it was “surprisingly good news”, signaling the city has defeated the COVID-19 virus.
However, some residents, especially those working at high-risk venues and parents with young kids, have decided to continue wearing masks in high-traffic areas.
Hong Kong will lift its mask mandate from Wednesday, with high-risk venues such as hospitals and elderly care homes having the option to ask visitors to wear masks, according to their administrative instructions, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said on Tuesday
Hong Kong will lift its mask mandate from Wednesday, with high-risk venues such as hospitals and elderly care homes having the option to ask visitors to wear masks, according to their administrative instructions, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said on Tuesday.
Hong Kong’s schools will also cancel their mandatory mask-wearing requirement, the Education Bureau said following Lee’s announcement. The EDB added that it would update its health protection measures for schools on Tuesday.
The rapid antigen test requirement for students returning to school, however, will remain in place for elementary, kindergarten, and special schools until March 15. The RAT requirement for secondary school students will also be lifted from Wednesday.
Masahiro Yoshioka, a 50-year-old Japanese man who has lived in Hong Kong for more than 20 years, was surprised to learn that the mask-wearing mandate will be lifted completely.
“It is definitely good news,” he said. As a food store manager, he believes the measure will get more people outside, thus boosting his business.
Ruslan, a 31-year-old Estonian who has lived in Hong Kong for 12 years, owns an online store taking global trading orders, is also very excited to see the mask order scrapped. He said the move signals the city is back to full-on normalcy, and future logistics and transportation services will be more convenient, which will benefit his store a lot.
Caleb Chan, 11, a sixth-grade student at a local elementary school, said he has been looking forward to an end to the mask mandate for a long time; he said he feels “superdelighted” that he will no longer need to wear a mask when taking gym classes or doing extracurricular activities.
In Chan’s view, classes without masks “will not be dangerous and unhealthy”, as most students are well-informed about the COVID virus and have already been infected.
Chan hopes schools will lift the RAT requirement immediately. “It makes me get up 10 minutes in advance every day, so energy-consuming,” Chan said.
Amanda Sheng, a mother of two children — a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old — was, however, a little concerned about the new arrangement. She said she will still ask her children to continue wearing masks for a while, to keep them safe, as “it will take time to see the overall pandemic situation in Hong Kong after lifting the mask order.”
Leung Wing-hung, chairman of the Hong Kong Special Schools Council, said that lifting the mask mandate will significantly help students with special educational needs to learn and to adapt to life in schools.
For example, students with impaired speech will be able to express themselves more clearly without masks, and children with mild intellectual disabilities will be able to learn to speak better by observing their teachers’ lip movements.
Leung said special schools will issue administrative instructions as soon as possible to teach students when to wear their masks; for example, during flu seasons.
School staff will also continue urging students to get fully vaccinated, with four doses, Leung said.
Joe Chan Yung-chau, secretary in general of the Elderly Services Association of Hong Kong, said that staff at residential care homes for the elderly will still wear masks voluntarily to protect the elderly, while residents will have the right to decide whether they wish to wear a mask or not.