Hong Kong will finally drop its COVID-19 mask mandate for both indoor and outdoor venues starting on Wednesday, chief executive John Lee announced. It’s one of the only places in the world still enforcing a public mask mandate three years into the pandemic.
Hong Kong has had a compulsory mask rule for both indoors and outdoors since July 2020, with a fine of $5,000 HKD ($640) for violators. Over the past few months, the city has eased many of its COVID-19 restrictions. The mask mandate was one of the last pandemic protocols.
Although the city has largely followed in the footsteps of mainland China’s COVID-19 rules, residents in the mainland are no longer required to wear masks outdoors, although it is still encouraged inside public areas, such as airports and train stations.
Mask rules remain in Hong Kong’s healthcare facilities and nursing homes.
So far, only those doing “strenuous activity” or visiting country parks are exempt from wearing masks.
The View From Macau
Neighboring Macau lifted its mask mandate on Monday, with the gambling hub’s chief executive saying that the COVID-19 situation had remained stable over the past two months.
The View From the EU
Although Germany was supposed to continue enforcing mask-wearing on long-distance trains and buses until April, the country’s health minister announced on Feb. 2 that face coverings would no longer be required — removing its last pandemic-related restriction.
Spain, one of the last few countries in Europe to require mask-wearing on public transport, scrapped the rule on Feb. 7.
The View From Taiwan
Taiwan dropped its mask mandate in most indoor places, including restaurants and offices, on Feb. 20, with schools set to relax measures in March.
Mask-wearing will still be enforced in hospitals and on public transportation.
The View From South Korea
Although South Korea scrapped most of its indoor mask rules in late January, many residents still choose to keep face coverings on.
The country has eliminated most of its pandemic measures, though a seven-day isolation period is still required for people who test positive for COVID-19.
The View From Japan
In early February, Japan downgraded COVID-19 to the same category as common infectious diseases, such as the seasonal flu, The Japan Times reported.
Under new guidelines to be imposed in mid-March, residents in Japan will only be required to wear masks on public transportation and in schools.
The country has never had a formal mask mandate, though face coverings have been highly encouraged since the start of the pandemic.
Last summer, amid scorching temperatures, the government urged residents to take off their masks when commuting and exercising outdoors as cases of heat stroke were on the rise.