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Corona virus: Hong Kong extends mask requirement until March 8, expert calls high risk of influenza

Hong Kong has extended its mask mandate until March 8, with an expert saying the rule should remain in place for a while longer as the population is vulnerable to influenza.

Health authorities on Wednesday announced the extension, which applies to public transport, paid areas in MTR and public spaces. Violators will be immediately fined HK$5,000 (US$637).

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu previously said the government will actively consider lifting the mask mandate after the winter flu season.

Respiratory medicine specialist Leung Chi-chiu on Wednesday advised against lifting the rule, citing susceptibility to influenza.

“With very few cases of influenza in the past three years, population immunity to influenza is at very low levels, particularly among younger children,” he argued. “We must keep masks when dropping rapid Covid antigen tests (RAT) for school children.”

The Education Bureau announced on Tuesday that the daily RAT requirement for secondary school students will be lifted starting next Wednesday. But the same measure for elementary schools, preschools and special schools will last until March 15.

Leung suggested that authorities lift mask requirements outdoors before scrapping the whole measure.

After three years of the pandemic, Hong Kong remains one of the few cities in the world where wearing a mask outdoors is mandatory. In mainland China, masks are only required indoors.

In January, Health Minister Lo Chung-mau said he hoped the public would continue to wear masks during the winter flu season as face coverings played an important role in fighting infection.

Hong Kong’s seasonal influenza levels have remained low, according to the latest figures from the Health Ministry.

In the week between February 5 and 11, 32.4 cases of influenza were detected in 1,000 consultations in private clinics.

As of February 11, four severe influenza cases had been recorded, including one patient under the age of 17, one between the ages of 18 and 49, and two aged 65 or older.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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