HONG KONG: Authorities in Macao, the world’s biggest gambling hub, said on Sunday (Feb 26) they would drop COVID 19-related mask requirements for most locations, except for public transportation, hospitals and a handful of other areas.

The rule change takes effect from Monday, the government said in a statement on its website.

“The epidemic situation in Macao has continuously remained stable over the last two months,” it said.

“Making reference from the anti-epidemic experience worldwide, the Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre will adjust its mask-wearing requirements.”

The neighbouring Chinese special administrative region of Hong Kong, one of the last places globally that still imposes a mask mandate, extended its requirement until Mar 8, although the authorities have said they hope to drop it as quickly as possible.

Hong Kong and Macao both followed China’s zero-COVID policy for much of the past three years. Hong Kong started unwinding its stringent COVID rules last year but mask-wearing has remained constant since 2020.

Residents of mainland China are not required to wear masks outdoors, although authorities encourage them to do so in public indoor areas such as airports and train stations.

Macao’s government said that individuals who develop flu-like symptoms should wear a mask when going out and that members of the public should carry face masks with them when commuting around the city.

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