Macau’s Covid-19 mask mandate has been partially lifted, leaving Hong Kong as one of the few remaining places across the globe to enforce a mask mandate in all public settings, according to an expert from the University of Hong Kong (HKU).
Macau’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre announced on Sunday that people in the casino hub would no longer be required to wear masks outdoors from Monday.
However, masks remain mandatory for patients in medical institutions, staff and visitors of elderly and rehabilitation homes, and drivers and passengers on public transport other than taxis.
The centre added that indoor mask wearing requirements would be further adjusted according to “the actual development of the Covid-19 situation.”
The announcement was made after Korea, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan have successively dropped their mask mandates – both indoors and outdoors – this year.
Calling Hong Kong one of the only places in the world that still required face coverings in most public areas, clinical assistant professor at HKU’s Department of Microbiology Siddharth Sridhar said he thought masks offered low returns, as immunity against the virus was prevalent in the city.
“Should masks be mandatory everywhere in Hong Kong? For Covid-19, my answer is no, ” Sridhar wrote.
A recent survey conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) also indicated that Hongkongers are generally supportive of eliminating all epidemic prevention measures by the end of March.
Unveiling its findings on Monday, CUHK interviewed 705 people aged 18 or above over the phone. The poll showed that 60 per cent of respondents believed all Covid-19 prevention measures should be withdrawn before April.
The survey also revealed that over half of the respondents were not concerned about Covid infection.
Around 60 per cent of those interviewed said they had been diagnosed with Covid-19 at least once. Among them, more than 60 per cent said they were not worried about reinfection, while 55 per cent of those who hadn’t yet contracted the virus said they were not concerned about getting Covid, either.
While most of the respondents said they have heard of “post Covid-19 condition” – or “long Covid” – nearly 40 per cent of those who had not been infected before said they were not worried about developing the condition.
However, 60 per cent of respondents said they were still gernerally concerned about the current epidemic situation in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has scrapped all use of its contact-tracing app, vaccination requirement to enter some venues and social gathering limit since the end of last year. However, the city’s rule mandating outdoor mask-wearing has been in place since July 29, 2020.
Violators of the mandate face a fixed penalty of HK$5,000, or a maximum fine of HK$10,000 if their case goes to court.
Some medics have called for the mandate to be axed, saying it has limited use as Covid-19 subsides. Last October, Chief Executive John Lee said compulsory outdoor mask wearing would continue “at least for the time being” unless there was a significant rise in the Covid vaccination rate among children. But, when Hong Kong followed China in scrapping most of its Covid regulations amid nationwide protests last year, the city retained the mask mandate, with Lee citing the risk of winter flu.
Earlier this month, the chief executive repeatedly claimed Hong Kong had “no restrictions whatsoever” as he sought to resuscitate the city’s ailing economy and tourism. Authorities, however, were continuing to fine people for failing to mask up.