‘Era is over’ as Beijing subway drops mandatory COVID mask rule

BEIJING (Reuters) – Beijing’s subway has dropped mandatory mask requirements for travelers, local media reported on Sunday, days after a Chinese health expert said the threat posed to people by COVID-19 was no longer serious.

The mask movement comes in line with broader measures by China, which said last week that wearing face masks is now no longer mandatory when using public transport, according to state media.

“It’s like an era has passed,” said a user on China’s popular social e-commerce app Xiaohongshu, as social media was flooded with news of the relaxation of rules.

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

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

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China, which eased its strict COVID rules in December, said the latest official data showed the COVID positivity rate rose slightly in early April, according to the Global Times. But respiratory specialists said it was unlikely China would see another major wave of infections across the country.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Reporting by Ethan Wang and Bernard Orr; Editing by William Mallard)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

Brian Ashcraft

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