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Hong Kong, one of the last places in the world to impose tight restrictions on face coverings due to Covid-19, will drop its mandate to wear masks after more than two and a half years.

John Lee, China’s territory leader and former top policeman, said the requirement to wear masks indoors, outdoors and on public transport would be dropped from Wednesday. The mask regulation has been in effect since July 2020.

“With the lifting of the mask wearing rule, we have now officially lifted all anti-epidemic restrictions. Hong Kong has completely returned to normal,” Health Minister Lo Chung-mau said. “We can all put a smile on our faces.”

Japan does not have a mandatory mask wearing rule, but relaxed guidelines on wearing masks in early February.

Macau, another Chinese territory bordering Hong Kong, dropped the requirement to wear masks outdoors and indoors on Monday, while Taiwan halted the regulation of wearing masks indoors in February, before That lifted the requirement to wear masks outdoors.

Hong Kong’s economy has been crippled after the city was forced to follow China’s lead in imposing strict pandemic restrictions that include week-long quarantines and travel bans.

Coupled with a strict security crackdown following pro-democracy protests in 2019, the rules have weakened the city’s status as a financial hub.

Lee said the city will now attempt to rebuild. “We will focus on our economy and the growth of the city this year and next year after normal operations resume,” he said Tuesday.

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