Hong Kong’s government will distribute reusable face masks to all 7.4 million citizens next week as the territory prepares to lift a first round of coronavirus-related restrictions.
The planned handouts would come amid an easing of public health restrictions, including the reopening of libraries and outdoor fitness centres.
Leading microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung, an early advocate for the use of face masks in response to the coronavirus, said with the face masks in use and consistently low daily infection numbers, the city should be able to ease social-distancing guidelines and restart the economy “very soon.”
Mr Yuen said the masks will contain reusable filters that can be replaced. The masks themselves can be washed and reused up to 60 times.
Citywide mask shortages have led to overnight lines and online scams resulting in losses of more than $US 6 million ($AUD 9 million) since Hong Kong confirmed its first case of Covid-19 in January.
Mr Yuen said he hoped the move would alleviate some of the mental and financial stress of acquiring masks during the pandemic.
Earlier in the day, Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan wrote on his blog that the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus and anti-government protests would likely result in the city’s worst fiscal year since the 1960s.
Mr Chan said, despite next week’s reopening of government services and lifting of restrictions, “we must act with caution as the global epidemic is still not resolved.”
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