The Chinese capital is taking another step back to normality, allowing residents to go mask-free outdoors. Under new municipal disease control and prevention guidelines released on Thursday, people do not need to wear a mask outside if they are only with “companions”. The announcement follows almost two weeks without a new case of coronavirus in the capital. China has largely brought the pandemic under control, fighting sporadic outbreaks with mass testing and contact tracing. The Beijing Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control (CDC) also recommended that if people did sneeze, they should do so into their elbow or a tissue, and they should wash their hands thoroughly as soon as they returned home. The CDC also underlined the need for guardians to ensure children maintained similar hand hygiene . Overall, China has recorded nearly 84,900 coronavirus infections and more than 4,630 deaths, most of them in the central province of Hubei. Wuhan, the world’s first epicentre of the pandemic in Hubei, allowed residents to enter shopping malls, gyms and other indoor facilities without a mask in June. This came after the city wrapped up mass testing on about 10 million people and identified around 300 asymptomatic cases. People can remain mask-free as long as they stay at least one metre apart in a well-ventilated space, according to local authorities. Hubei is trying to return to normal after a strict months-long lockdown was lifted in late March, welcoming 2.7 million domestic tourists over the past week. In footage of Wuhan posted online, thousands of largely mask-free visitors packed together at a pool party during a music festival that runs until the end of the month. More than 1.2 million people also visited China’s biggest beer festival in the eastern city of Qingdao . Visitors had to present a green health QR code to indicate they were free of the virus and pass temperature checks before entering the festival area. Since Covid-19 is mostly transmitted via respiratory droplets and contact routes, many governments have recommended the general public use face coverings, while some have made mask-wearing compulsory in public places. But rules on masks varied across the world at the start of the pandemic. The World Health Organisation previously said there was no need for people who were well to wear masks, recommending that only the sick and medical and care workers use them. But growing evidence that some asymptomatic carriers could sicken others prompted changes in mask-wearing rules. In April, the global health body said “the use of masks, both home-made and cloth masks, at the community level may help with an overall comprehensive response to this disease”.