Wearing face masks has proved to be an effective strategy against the spread of Covid-19 in Hong Kong. As the threat appears to be subsiding, the government is marking this milestone with a pleasant surprise for citizens – a free washable mask for everyone. With social-distancing restrictions being eased and the undersupply of masks less serious, the gesture may seem overdue. It is nonetheless a positive step to make up for the inadequacy of government responses in the early stages. The fight against the coronavirus, after all, could be a long-drawn-out one. With the online system for the product attracting1 million people within the first few hours of operation, the home-grown CuMask+ has been well received by some, but it has also met negative feedback. From design and protection to tendering and distribution, criticisms and queries abound. The giveaway may not mean much to the many who are well stocked with protective gear by now. But it renews attention on an issue that warrants improvements in policy and coordination. While there are no more overnight queues for surgical masks outside pharmacies, they and many other health care products are still overpriced. An affordable and adequate supply remains an issue, especially for the underprivileged. From Hong Kong to UK, governments ranked poorly for response to Covid-19 Also worthy of concern is the matter of logistics. When it comes to cash handouts, the government’s record for efficient distribution does not instil confidence. How to make an essential product available for 7.5 million people is a genuine challenge. There is no shortage of examples in which good deeds by government have turned into public relations disasters. Dismissing claims that such a move was overdue, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said there were simply not enough masks for everyone before. But it remains a fact that the government failed to secure what most people needed during the height of the epidemic. Nonetheless, the latest endeavour is recognition of the public’s efforts in fighting the disease. That face coverings have finally gained wider acceptance in the world as the first line of defence is partly attributable to the experience of the city. Hongkongers were among the first in the region to put on surgical masks in the wake of the Wuhan outbreak. Months have since passed and the local infection rate remains one of the lowest. So far some 50 countries have made wearing a mask in public mandatory. The giveaway is not just a symbol of recognition for our efforts, but also a practical tool with which we can soldier on. We have shown the world how to win the battle through initiative and endurance. Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.