Coronavirus: Beijing announces wearing masks outdoors not necessary

K J M Varma

Beijing, May 17 (PTI) Beijing has done away with the guideline that residents should wear masks while on outdoors, the first city in China and perhaps in the world to do so in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, signalling that the coronavirus is under control in the Chinese capital.

After months of wearing masks to prevent virus infection risks, people can now breathe freely outside without a mask in Beijing, state-run China Daily reported, citing the new guidelines announced by the Beijing Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on Sunday.

The centre said people don't need to wear masks outside, but still should avoid close contact with others.

It also encourages the public to take some outdoor exercise when the weather is good, which is helpful to increase the quality of life and health, the report said.

The announcement comes ahead of China's Parliament -- the National People's Congress (NPC) -- all set to hold its postponed annual session on May 22 amid a steady decline in the coronavirus cases in the country.

The annual session of the national advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), is also expected to be held in Beijing on May 21.

Dubbed as the annual political season, the NPC and the CPPCC sessions -- which together have over 5,000 members, are held every year in early March during which the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) unveils its national agenda for the year, including the annual budget and formulates new laws.

On Sunday, China's National Health Commission (NHC) reported 17 new coronavirus cases, including 12 asymptomatic infections, while officials in Wuhan, where the outbreak originated, continued vigorous testing of its over 11 million residents after new clusters of COVID-19 emerged in parts of the city.

As of Saturday, the number of coronavirus cases stood at 82,947 in China. Of the total cases, 86 patients were being treated, while 78,227 people had been discharged from hospitals after recovery.

The deadly virus has claimed 4,634 lives in the country, the NHC said.

Beijing has reported nine deaths due to the viral infection and a total of 593 cases since late January. Over 570 patients in Beijing have recovered from the deadly disease. PTI KJV SCY