What are the requirements of the Prevention and Control of Disease (Wearing of Mask) Regulation (Cap. 599I)?
Cap. 599I empowers the Secretary for Food and Health, for preventing, protecting against, delaying or otherwise controlling the incidence or transmission of the specified disease, to, by notice published in the Gazette, impose compulsory mask wearing requirement during the specified period. For the purpose of the mandatory mask-wearing requirement, all public places, save for outdoor public places in country parks and special areas as defined in section 2 of the Country Parks Ordinance (Cap. 208), a person must wear a mask at all times when the person is boarding or onboard a public transport carrier, is entering or present in an MTR paid area, or is entering or present in a specified public place.
When will the direction take place?
The amended Cap. 599I took effect on 23 July 2020 and has been extended to 27 January 2021.
How to define “public place”?
“Public place” means any place to which for the time being the public or a section of the public may or are permitted to have access, whether on payment or otherwise. If private properties allow access by members of the public for the time being, such as shops, such private properties would fall under the definition of public places and hence the requirements regarding mask wearing in the Regulation will also be applicable at the material time.
How is wearing a mask considered?
According to the Regulation, a person wearing a mask is a reference to the person wearing a mask over and covering the person’s nose and mouth, with the mask touching the person’s nose, chin and cheeks.
What is the definition of mask?
The definition of mask includes any covering designed or made (a) to be worn over the nose and mouth (b) to provide the wearer protection against infections or air pollution.
Is private vehicle a public place and whether the driver and passenger therein are subject to the mandatory mask-wearing requirement?
Generally speaking, private vehicles for personal use, if they are not available for hire by the general public and a person may not gain access to the vehicle for the time being as a member of the public, are not regarded as public place where wearing masks is required under the Regulation. In any case, drivers and passengers should wear masks as far as possible for prevention of the spread of disease.
Can taking off the mask for smoking in outdoor public places be exempted?
The scope of reasonable excuses provided under Cap. 599I does not include smoking. In another words, any person who is entering or present in public place cannot take off their mask for smoking. Smokers are more likely to touch their mask and face with their hands during smoking, leading to increased chance of infection. Besides, smoking damages lungs and weakens immunity. Smokers who have contracted COVID-19 are more likely to develop severe complications. We appeal to members of the public to avoid smoking in public places, and to quit smoking whenever possible. For information on smoking and COVID-19, please visit the website of the Tobacco and Alcohol Control Office or dial Quit line 1833 183.
Is there exemption for mask wearing during exercise?
The Regulation expressly provides that it is a reasonable excuse for a person not to wear a mask if the person is engaged in any physical activity (including exercise) that may reasonably be regarded as strenuous for him or her, in a place that is not indoor.
Generally speaking, people who are doing outdoor strenuous exercise should meet the conditions for the above reasonable excuse and do not need to wear a mask. Enforcement agents may consider whether to accept the reasonable excuse taking into account the actual circumstances and relevant factors.
If a person cannot put on a mask due to physical impairment or disability, will he or she violate the Regulation?
If a person cannot put on, wear or remove a mask because of any physical or mental illness, impairment or disability, it is considered a reasonable excuse for not wearing a mask under the Regulation.
Can catering or scheduled premises regulated under Cap. 599F be exempted from the mask wearing requirement in indoor public place?
If the directions in relation to catering or scheduled premises under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Requirements and Directions) (Business and Premises) Regulation (Cap. 599F) permit resumption of operation of the relevant premises, and allow any person in the premises not wearing a mask in circumstances permitted (such as during exercise at fitness centre or having a bath or shower at bathhouse), it is considered as a reasonable excuse for not wearing mask under Cap. 599I.
Who are the authorized persons to initiate enforcement?
In relation to specified public places, the authorized person means police officers, authorized public officers, managers or owners of that place or part, and persons authorized by that manager or owner. Authorized public officers include public officers from the departments which are responsible for the management of the public places / premises under their respective purviews, such as the Department of Health, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Housing Department and Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, etc. The grade / rank of the authorized public officers appointed by the Director of Health is uploaded on this website.
In relation to a public transport carrier, the authorized person means the police officer, the driver, conductor, inspector, ticket collector, manager or owner of the carrier.
In relation to an MTR paid area, the authorized person means the police officer and the MTR Corporation Limited.
What are the powers granted to the authorized person?
If an authorized person reasonably considers that a person is not wearing a mask, he/she may deny the person concerned from entering the specified public place / boarding to the carrier/ entry to the area, or require that person to wear a mask and require that person to leave that place if that person does not comply with the requirement of mask-wearing.
In relation to a public transport carrier,, if a person fails to comply with a requirement made under the Regulation by a police officer, the police officer may remove that person from the public transport carrier or MTR paid area and use reasonable force.
What is the maximum penalty?
The Government has increased the penalties for breaching requirements under the relevant Regulations in order to create the necessary deterrence effect. The relevant legislative amendments took effect from 11 December 2020. A person who contravenes the requirement of not wearing mask at public place commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine at level 3 ($10,000), or may discharge liability for the offence by paying a fixed penalty of $5,000. The authorized person may deny the person who is not wearing a mask from boarding to the transport carrier/ entering the area, or require that person to wear a mask and require that person to leave that place if that person does not comply with the requirement of mask-wearing. If a person fails to comply with the requirements to wear mask or leave the area upon the authorized person’s request to wear a mask and leave that place, he/ she also commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine at level 3 ($10,000).
Moreover, a person who fails to provide personal details to authorized public officers, provides false or misleading information, or obstructs an authorized public officers in performing their function would be liable on conviction to a fine at level 3 ($10,000).
What kind of public transport carriers does the Regulation cover?
The Regulation applies to public transport carriers set out under its Schedule, including public bus, public bus operated under a passenger service licence, public light bus, school private light bus, taxi, train operated on the Mass Transit Railway, train operated on the KCRC Railway, light rail vehicle operated on the North-west Railway, car used on the tramway, tramcar used on the tramway, cable car etc.
If a person is boarding or on board a public transport carrier that is not in service, or is entering or present in an MTR paid area that is not open to the public, the relevant provision does not apply.
Who is regulated by the Regulation? Does it include the drivers?
The Regulation requires that all person over the age of two must wear mask at all times when the person is boarding or on board a public transport carrier; or entering or present in an MTR paid area. The Regulation applies to the drivers as well (except for public transport that is not in service).