Passengers in China recommended to wear masks on subway, trains, planes
Published: Mar 30, 2023 01:53 PM
Photo: from IC.

Photo: from IC.

As China's COVID-19 prevention has achieved a stable transition after downgrading  management of the virus to a Class B infection, discussions have arisen whether it is still necessary to wear masks on public transport. Despite no compulsory requirements, experts still suggest passengers keep their masks on subway, trains and planes for the sake of public health, especially for vulnerable groups.

"Passengers will be recommended to wear masks when entering crowded subway stations for the sake of their health, but this is not a compulsory requirement," Guangzhou Metro in South China's Guangdong Province said on Wednesday evening after netizens posted photos of people not wearing masks on the subway across social media platforms.

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport issued a similar response on whether passengers should wear masks at the airport, Nanfang Plus reported. China Southern Airlines said passengers on the international flights need to wear masks while there is no clear requirement for those onboard domestic flights, suggesting that it was a good idea to keep one within reach.

China Railway Guangzhou Group said they haven't received a notice about removing masks on passengers traveling on China's high speed rail network.

While subway stations in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Chengdu and Nanjing have removed compulsory requirements for passengers to wear masks, a Beijing MTR employee working in Beijing said they would still ask passengers to keep their masks on while on the subway and provide masks for those who forgot to bring them.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region scrapped mask mandate on March 1 with local residents no longer needing to wear masks indoors, outdoors and in public transportation

In mid-February, China's top leadership said during a meeting that China's COVID policy adjustment and optimization helped achieve a stable transition of managing the virus as a Class B infection, allowing the country to achieve a decisive victory in COVID-19 prevention since November 2022.

Experts said wearing masks could become a non-compulsory measure given the current COVID-19 situation, but it was still an effective way to block infectious diseases and thus remained necessary given the current elevated risk of catching influenza and norovirus infection.

Despite the risk of being infected by COVID-19 is lower due to the past of infection peak and warmer weather, the risk of digestive tract infectious disease typically increases, Li Tongzeng, chief physician from the respiratory and infectious diseases department at Beijing You'an Hospital told the Global Times on Thursday.

Li suggested that members of high-risk groups, such as the elderly, pregnant women and those with underlying diseases wear masks while using public transport as they might develop severe symptoms, unlike the young people who can recover quickly even infected by influenza or norovirus.

On March 13, China scrapped mandatory mask wearing for school students and teachers, a fresh move linked to relaxed COVID-19 preventive measures since nearly 300 million teachers and students across the country returned to campus in February.

Li noted the COVID-19 infection risk could become higher in the second half of 2023 as the first infection peak will have passed by over six months during which people have immunization protection, saying relevant government departments are closely monitoring the virus variation situation.