Residents in China’s capital Beijing can now venture out of their homes without wearing a mask.
Health authorities in the city have removed the need for people to wear masks outdoors as part of restrictions put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, after no new case was reported in about two weeks.
Most residents, however, said they will continue to wear a mask as it makes them feel safe and also to ensure there is no social sanction.
“I think I can take off my mask anytime, but I’ll need to see if others accept it. Because I’m afraid that people would be scared if they see me not wearing a mask,” a 24-year old Beijing woman told Reuters.
Local authorities had made masks mandatory when COVID first broke out earlier in the year. The restriction was removed in April. They, however, had to again insist on masks after transmission of the disease was detected at the Xinfadi wholesale market located in the south of Beijing.
Some experts said that the virus strain that infected the market was more contagious than the one detected at the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, believed to be the source of COVID.
The disease was first reported from the seafood market before it spread to other parts of China and then rapidly to almost all parts of the world, bringing the global economy to a standstill and plunging many major economies, like that of the UK, into recession.
Officials in the US administration accused China of causing the pandemic by covering up the initial outbreak in Wuhan.
China, however, has been able to control the transmission effectively because local authorities enforced restrictions strictly. There has been no new locally transmitted case reported from the country in the last five days. It has been able to control intermittent outbreaks in places like Xinjiang and also Beijing.
The country has reported about 85,000 cases of COVID so far.