A Hong Kong sports medicine expert has warned of risks posed by wearing surgical masks during high-intensity exercise, after the city’s government reopened leisure facilities but insisted that masks still be worn. With the city’s Covid-19 infection numbers easing, sports premises – which had been shut down by the government since January – were on Thursday allowed to reopen. But people using them were told to follow strict rules on social distancing, vaccination and the continued wearing of masks during sporting activities. “If people are performing high-intensity team sports such as football and rugby with their masks on, they must stop if they feel uncomfortable or it will become very risky,” said Dr Patrick Yung Shu-hang, president of the Hong Kong Association of Sports Medicine and Sports Science. “I feel puzzled. If the government allows people to go back to the sporting arena, I don’t know why they have to ask people to wear masks. “In fact, I have never seen any medical document saying people will get infected with Covid-19 because of playing football. I would love to discuss the subject with them if any expert agrees to. Also, playing non-contact sports such as tennis with the two separated players wearing surgical masks is just unbelievable. “Of course, football players or other sports participants may get infected when gathering after sports, and that risk can be minimised through appropriate social distancing measures – not by asking them to wear masks during exercise.” Yung, who is also medical adviser to the Hong Kong Football Association, said he had recommended club players conduct only low-intensity training at this stage, because of the mask requirement and their lack of imminent matches. Premier League club BC Rangers resumed training at Kowloon Bay Park on Thursday – the first time they had stepped on to a pitch since January – but players complained about the rule on mask-wearing. Elite Hong Kong athletes, teams, training together after Covid rules change “It doesn’t work at all,” striker Walter Soares Junior said. “It’s impossible to train with a mask. Sometimes I need to take it off for breathing and then put it on again. I hope the government will change the policy.” But the mask requirement does not apply to another Premier League club, Eastern, because they are preparing for the AFC Cup group stage in June. The government says the rule does not apply to people who are “directly involved in the training by or selection of athletes of the Hong Kong representative team and squad for the purpose of qualifying and/or preparing for the Hangzhou Asian Games, Asian Para Games, Chengdu World University Games; or Asian Football Confederation tournaments”. Rangers player Lau Chi-lok said he could not understand the rationale behind it. “This is a strange arrangement – both clubs are back in football training, but with different treatment,” he said.