On the other hand, local citizens also generally favour the policy change. Undeniably, many people were cautious and kept their masks on for the first few days after the mandate was dropped. But those who chose to go maskless have not been discriminated against either. Most people embrace the fact that they can choose the lifestyle they want instead of being forced by law.
Besides, almost everyone vividly remembers how difficult it was to get face masks at the beginning of the pandemic. Even if one could afford to pay several hundred Hong Kong dollars for a box of masks, queuing up for hours was still necessary.
That was why celebration erupted online over the easing of mask rules. Many spoke about their remaining stockpiles of masks not with remorse but joy. Netizens also reminded each other to wear make-up and shave for work as their entire faces were allowed to be shown again.
RENEWED DEBATE ABOUT PROHIBITIONS ON FACE COVERING
The losers of the policy change are clearly mask factory owners who invested in building production lines. But, locals also discussed the reputational damage to Hong Kong officials, not only because of the sudden change in rules, but because it also reminded people of the controversial Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation.
The Regulation bans the covering one’s face at public demonstrations. It was implemented in 2019 at the height of Hong Kong’s anti-extradition Bill movement to discourage people from joining the protests. When COVID-19 struck three months afterwards, the introduction of the mask mandate sparked discussion about whether the two regulations, which seemed contradictory, could co-exist.
The discussion died down when society was busy fighting against the virus, but has been stirred up again with the latest mask-wearing policy change. When Chief Executive John Lee announced the end of the mask mandate, he was also questioned about the future of the Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation.