Ho Pak-leung: Outdoor Masks, Covid Rules Can Go Now

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2023-01-24 HKT 15:22

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  • HKU microbiologist Ho Pak-leung says it's high time for Hong Kong to drop the outdoor mask mandate. File photo: RTHK

    HKU microbiologist Ho Pak-leung says it's high time for Hong Kong to drop the outdoor mask mandate. File photo: RTHK

Top microbiologist Ho Pak-leung on Tuesday urged the government to axe the remaining Covid restrictions, including ending compulsory mask wearing outdoors, saying the SAR has entered what he called a "post-pandemic era".

The University of Hong Kong scholar's comments come as officials consider their next steps, with Chief Executive John Lee announcing earlier this month that he wanted to see all Covid restrictions gone this year. From January 30, Covid patients will no longer need to quarantine, and the coronavirus will be treated as a regular respiratory disease.

Speaking on Commercial Radio, Ho said the SAR could move even faster, including ending the mandatory wearing of masks outdoors as soon as possible.

"Since mid-2022, we have entered a post-pandemic stage already," Ho said. "Hong Kong has an unique pace of reopening. We are heading towards normalcy now, but most foreign countries have already dropped the mask mandate,"

The University of Hong Kong expert said there should be a brief transition period before the quarantine mandate is dropped later this month to settle outstanding matters such as the question of whether patients with Covid should be entitled to sick leave.

Ho questioned why some of the administration's policies appeared to be at odds with its position that Covid is now considered a regular respiratory disease, such as the continuing requirements for people such as hospital staff and school pupils to do rapid antigen test every day.

Despite some concerns of an uptick in cases after the resumption of quarantine-free travel to the mainland on January 8, the daily tally of Covid cases in Hong Kong fell to its lowest level in six months during the Lunar New Year holiday, with 2,271 cases reported on Monday.