HK may end outdoor mask rule

HONG KONG: The Special Administrative Region could scrap its outdoor mask mandate and shorten the isolation period for people who test positive for Covid as part of a suite of major relaxations in the city’s virus rules being considered by the government, local media reported.

As well as potentially scrapping the mask rule, the government is considering using rapid-antigen tests to replace the two PCR tests currently required for inbound travellers, and the Hospital Authority may explore relaxing discharge criteria for patients, pro-China newspaper Wen Wei Po reported Thursday, citing people it didn’t identify. The newspaper didn’t give a timeline for when any changes would be announced.

Separately, Cable TV and the South China Morning Post reported that Hong Kong will reduce the isolation period for Covid patients and close contacts to five days, from seven, citing people they didn’t identify. Both said the outdoor mask mandate would remain for now but did not refute that relaxing it was under consideration.

The Post said the change to the isolation requirement will be announced at a briefing by health officials on Thursday. Representatives from the Health Department and the Hong Kong government didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment by Bloomberg News.

The moves – which coincide with a rise in the daily Covid tally to the highest since the city’s deadly wave in March – would be the biggest relaxation to virus rules since Hong Kong scrapped hotel quarantine for inbound travellers in September in an effort to revive its standing as a global financial centre.

If enacted, the changes would follow a substantial easing of Covid Zero curbs in mainland China this week, reflecting pressure on President Xi Jinping to chart a path out of the crisis and quell public discontent.

Hong Kong stocks jumped on optimism. — Bloomberg

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