A renowned Chinese infectious disease expert believes as the country has entered into a stage of low prevalence of the novel coronavirus, wearing masks has now become an optional measure.
Zhang Wenhong, head of the Center for Infectious Diseases with the Shanghai-based Huashan Hospital of Fudan University, said recently at the 2023 Asia Youth Leaders Forum in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province that human beings have fully built up their immunity to COVID-19, and that China will soon emerge from this public health emergency.
"China's health system has endured great challenges over the past three years, but it has survived. The WHO has announced that the number of people dying from COVID-19 is now at a historic low every day. I believe we are not far from getting over this COVID-19 public health emergency," Zhang said.
The director of the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this month also expressed that he is "confident" that this year, we will be able to say that COVID-19 is over as a public health emergency of international concern.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a media briefing in Geneva on March 17 that "We are certainly in a much better position now than we have been at any time during the pandemic."
Tedros noted that over the past four weeks, the weekly number of reported deaths has been lower than it was before the pandemic was declared in March 2020. COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to trend downward worldwide.
According to Hong Kong media reports, the special administrative region (SAR) has announced on February 28 that as the overall risk of the epidemic in Hong Kong is under control, Hong Kong has lifted its "mask order" in all settings from March 1, and people will no longer have to wear masks indoors, outdoors or on public transport. The Macao SAR scrapped on the requirement to wear masks outdoors on February 27.
Some health experts suggested that the Chinese mainland could follow Hong Kong's example of relaxing regulations on the wearing of masks, but in public institutions such as aged care homes and hospitals, masks may still be necessary.
Experts have also stressed that, given the high incidence of infectious respiratory diseases such as H1N1 flu in spring, wearing masks is still a very effective self-protection measure, suggesting that the elderly, young children and people who haven't infected with COVID-19 should continue to wear masks.