Public mask wearing can be eased: Chinese expert
BEIJING, April 4 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese health expert suggests relaxing mandatory mask wearing in public except for elderly care centers and other high-risk facilities as the global COVID-19 pandemic is nearing an end and domestic flu infections are declining, China Daily reported on Tuesday.
The waning epidemic in recent months has given rise to discussions on throwing out face coverings in a step toward fully restoring normal life, said the newspaper.
The decision to wear masks can be left up to individuals when visiting places that do not require compulsory mask use, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), was quoted as saying.
According to the latest data released by the China CDC, the number of new positive COVID-19 cases had dropped to less than 3,000 on Thursday, around the same level seen in October before the emergence of a major outbreak that peaked in late December, said the newspaper.
These new positive cases were largely detected through proactive testing, and the majority of them were not infected during the previous wave, said Wu, adding that there were also no new COVID-19-related deaths at hospitals for several consecutive weeks.
"It is safe to say that this wave of the domestic epidemic has basically ended."
Globally, Wu said that weekly COVID-19 infections and deaths had fallen to record lows last month since the pandemic emerged in late 2019, suggesting that the pandemic is also drawing to an end.
Regarding this year's flu season, Wu said that the positivity rate of the flu has stabilized in the past three weeks, and new cases will continue to decline as the weather gets warmer.
However, individuals are still obliged to wear masks when going to venues that clearly require wearing masks, including when attending certain conferences or visiting elderly care centers, hospitals and other facilities that have not experienced major outbreaks, said the epidemiologist.