Still Need to Wear a Mask? China’s CDC Issues Latest Advice

By Alistair Baker-Brian, April 4, 2023

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For those whose memories are long enough, when the COVID-19 pandemic was in its infancy, you may recall reports of some people in rural China being tied up for not wearing masks.

READ MORE: People Are Being Tied up for Not Wearing Masks in China

Well… we’ve come a long way since then.

On April 2, Wu Zunyou – Chief Epidemiologist at China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – took to Weibo to clarify the latest advice on mask wearing.

You may remember Wu as the official who had to modify the "don’t touch foreigners” advice regarding monkey pox.

READ MORE: China Modifies 'Don't Touch Foreigner' Advice After Backlash

Below are a few of the key points from Wu’s Weibo post about mask wearing.

Where Masks are STILL Necessary

  • Specific venues with vulnerable people, such as elderly care homes, hospitals, etc.

Where Masks are NOT Necessary

  • Outside in public places such as parks, on the street, elsewhere in the neighborhood, etc.

  • Public indoor spaces such as hotel lobbies, shopping malls, public transport, etc.

Unless specific mask mandates are in place, mask wearing should be a matter of personal choice depending on individual circumstances, according to Wu.

Those living in Beijing, Shanghai, Hefei and elsewhere in China have told That’s that many individuals now choose not to wear face masks when taking public transport.

Circumstances Under Which Masks are RECOMMENDED

  • If you show symptoms such as fever, cough, other respiratory sickness, etc. 

  • If you are in a household with those who have low immunity (young children, elderly, those with underlying health conditions, etc.)

How Effective are Masks Anyway?

Mask wearing has been commonplace throughout the Middle Kingdom since COVID-19 first emerged. Now that China has moved on from ‘dynamic zero-COVID,’ you can probably expect that to change. Anecdotal observations of daily life in China suggest that this is already happening.

China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was one of the last places in the world to have strict a mask mandate in place – requiring face covering in almost all public areas. That mandate has since been scrapped.

READ MORE: Hong Kong & Macao Ditch Mask Mandate

Outside of China, the pandemic has sparked debate about the effectiveness of masks. A recent study by the Cochrane Library looked at the effectiveness of masking programs, such as mask mandates.

The study’s results were inconclusive. Many people mistakenly touted this as evidence that masks are ineffective at stopping the spread of COVID-19, prompting Cochrane Library’s Editor-in-Chief to emphasize that this was not the case, reports ABC News.

A study from the CDC in the United States published in February 2022 looked at mask-wearing in indoor settings. The results suggested that wearing cloth masks reduced the risk of COVID infection by around 56%, surgical masks by 66% and N95 / KN95 masks by 83%.

However, as Dr. Bruce Y Lee, professor of health policy and management at City University of New York School of Public Health, told ABC News – masks are population-based interventions rather than individual-based, meaning their efficacy depends on how many people are wearing them.

[Cover image via Wikimedia]

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