Hong Kong’s leader John Lee is optimistic he can remove the last pandemic curbs including mask wearing this year.
“My hope in 2023 is to remove all Covid restrictions,” Lee said in an interview with Hong Kong Commercial Daily. He said he hopes “all problems will be resolved in the first quarter,” according to the report published Tuesday.
The mask mandate is one of the only major curbs left remaining from the city’s Covid Zero days, along with an isolation order for positive cases. Failure to abide by the rule, which was imposed in July 2020, risks a HK$5,000 ($640) fine. Hong Kong gave up most other restrictions in December after China suddenly abandoned its strict approach to controlling the virus. The city’s border with the mainland reopened this month for the first time in three years.
Lee said last month the mask mandate would likely be the last measure the government removes because it’s effective against Covid and other respiratory diseases. The city’s pandemic restrictions undermined the economy, which likely contracted in 2022 for the third time in four years.
“A full return to normal has always been my goal,” Lee told the newspaper. “Of course, I hope that there will be no Covid-19 curbs, including mask orders.”
—With assistance from Kari Lindberg.