| 2 December 2023, Saturday |

‘Era has passed’ as Beijing subway drops mandatory COVID mask rule

The Beijing metro has reduced required mask requirements for passengers, according to local media on Sunday, just days after a Chinese health expert indicated the threat of COVID-19 to humans is no longer substantial.

The mask decision is consistent with larger Chinese policy, which announced last week that wearing face masks when riding public transportation was no longer required, according to official media.

“It’s as if an era has passed,” a user commented on China’s popular social e-commerce app Xiaohongshu, as word of the laws’ relaxation spread.

Staff at a Beijing subway station tore down signs reminding people to wear masks, Beijing Daily reported.

The pandemic is nearing its end, based on World Health Organization data, said Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the China Daily.

China, which dismantled its strict COVID rules in December, said the latest official data indicated the COVID positivity rate went up slightly in early April, according to the Global Times. However, respiratory specialists said it was unlikely China would experience another big wave of infections nationwide.

China has declared victory over COVID several times, highlighting the government’s response and handling of the pandemic.

Some people on social media voiced concerns over the relaxation of mask rules, saying the virus remains a threat.

“Let’s hope there will not be a second wave of infections,” a user on China’s Twitter-like social media Weibo site said.

Masks are optional on public transport and in supermarkets, movie theatres and other indoor places with large gatherings, Xinhua news reported.

Masks remain mandatory when a person has tested positive for COVID or is displaying symptoms, during local outbreaks and in medical institutions and nursing homes, the report said.

Chinese cities have been scrapping mask mandates for several weeks, including Hong Kong, which ended mask requirements on March 1.

  • Reuters