Covid-19: Ditch masks for outdoor activities, Hong Kong experts urge; government health official advises against

Wearing a mask while exercising outdoors has little impact on the risk of Covid-19 transmission, Hong Kong health experts have said, with one saying the mandate did “more harm than good”. However, a government official said residents should wear masks when outdoors or in contact with others.

Children exercising with masks. File photo: GovHK.

The number of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong has been steadily declining despite the Easter holiday and the easing of social distancing measures last Thursday. On Sunday, the city reported 429 new infections – more than 300 fewer than the 747 recorded the previous Sunday.

Speaking on a TVB broadcast on Sunday, Ivan Hung – clinical professor and assistant dean of the School of Clinical Medicine at the University of Hong Kong – said the city had already built a “natural immune barrier” as the actual number of infections “probably exceeded 4 million.”

Hung said the government could consider accelerating the easing of social distancing restrictions over the next two weeks, allowing bars to reopen and rescinding the mask mandate for sporting activities and in country parks.

“When you’re outside, whether you’re wearing a mask or not, it has no effect…the air exchange rate is even better than a negative pressure service, so the risk is very , very low,” Hung said.

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Hung also said the daily number of Covid-19 cases could fall below 100 in two to three weeks, as the number fell by around 50 every day.

However, Hung said the vaccine pass requirement for citizens to receive the third dose of a Covid-19 vaccination by May 31 should remain in place, and authorities should ask all incoming visitors to be triple bitten by the end of May. , also.

University of Hong Kong epidemiologist Ben Cowling said on Twitter that outdoor masking had “minimal benefit” and he “would recommend rescinding the outdoor mask mandate as soon as possible.”

“Requiring masks to be worn during sporting activities will do more harm than good,” he wrote.

During Sunday’s routine Covid-19 briefing, Albert Au of the Center for Health Protection was asked if the health authority would lift the outdoor mask mandate in light of Hung’s comment.

Au said people “always need to wear masks” when going out or in contact with others “in order to prevent infection as well as…spread disease to others.”

“For people who have been infected, the natural immunity provided by a previous infection may wane over time, so they still need to get vaccinated or they run the risk of re-infecting themselves several months later,” Au added.

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