Coronavirus outbreak: Carrie Lam orders Hong Kong officials not to wear masks to save supplies for medical workers

South China Morning Post

On the day the city confirms its first virus death, the Chief Executive urges others to consider reducing mask use amid global supply shortages

South China Morning Post |

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Carrie Lam did not have a mask on when she revealed she did not want her officials wearing them.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has ordered government officials not to wear surgical masks execept in limited circumstances, in response to rising global demands and to save supplies for medical staff on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak.

“We believe the government should take the lead, so we have issued internal guidelines asking all departments to follow this in wearing masks,” Lam told the media before the weekly meeting with her executive councillors. “The goal is to save stocks for medical staff,” she added.

Only those government staff who feel unwell, work in frontline services, and attend crowded places should wear the masks, the city’s chief executive said, referring to advice issued by the World Health Organisation.

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“We look at all officials who are going to meet the media, and in their regular duties. If they do not match those criteria, they are not allowed to wear masks,” Lam said.

“I actually told them they cannot wear [the masks], and they have to take them off even if they are already wearing [them].

“If everyone uses a few masks every day, it imposes a lot of pressure on already tight supply,” she said, adding the media should consider adopting the same measures.

Her remarks on Tuesday came on the day Hong Kong confirmed its first death from the novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, the central Chinese city, and has so far infected more than 20,600 and killed hundreds of people.

A 39-year-old man from Hung Hom – who was being treated for the virus in Princess Margaret Hospital and had underlying health issues – died on Tuesday morning.