Leaders and experts should lead by example and wear a mask, according to Yuen Kwok-yung, a top microbiologist and government advisor, as the city braces for a fifth wave of Covid-19.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam has been seen removing her mask while speaking to the press in recent months, including during a briefing on Saturday after more than 100 cases were found in a public housing estate Omicron cluster. Daily infections are at an 18-month high.

Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference on January 22, 2022. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Lam wore a mask when entering Saturday’s press conference, but took it off after she had taken her seat. She then proceeded to speak without a mask throughout the hour-long briefing.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan, Controller of the Centre for Health Protection Edwin Tsui, and Assistant Director at the Housing Department Ian Luk, who attended with Lam, all wore masks during the press conference.

The wearing of masks remains compulsory outdoors, though not in private spaces.

When asked about Lam’s behaviour on TVB on Sunday, the microbiologist said that, as long as Lam tested negative and others were always wearing their masks, he believed the risk of transmission was low.

Top microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung speaks to reporters on January 12, 2021. Screenshot via RTHK.

Nevertheless, Yuen said people should bear in mind the high airborne transmission ability of the Omicron variant. “If you do not wear a mask, it is not that ideal. Especially when we are experts or leaders, we must set examples ourselves – that is why I wear two masks for everyone to see,” he said.

Hong Kong recorded 140 new cases on Sunday, the highest in 18 months. Among them, 125 – including four with no known transmission links – were local infections. In all, Hong Kong has reported 13,286 infections and 213 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic just over two years ago.

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