Mask wearing: Many countries drop mandates but issue recommendations

SINGAPORE – For the past two years, the Covid-19 pandemic forced people to adopt unprecedented measures to slow, if not stop, the spread of the disease.

Many countries have now administered vaccine and booster shots to their populations. Correspondingly, several measures to fight the transmission of the disease have been lifted. Mask-wearing, however, continues to be practised. Here is a list of mask requirements worldwide, starting with Asia:


Masks are required in all public areas, including on public transportation and in malls and even gyms. But enforcement varies. Some gyms allow patrons to go mask-free during intensive exercises while popular attractions, like the China National Botanic Garden, have staff reminding visitors to keep face coverings on, even in muggy summer heat.


Most states have kept their mandates for mask wearing in places such as markets, hospitals, public transport, and even private vehicles. However, the authorities are not enforcing the rule or imposing fines as strictly as they were as recently as last month.


On July 1, the government reinstated its mask mandate as Covid-19 cases climbed again, dominated by the more transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants. However, compliance has been noticeably low.


A mask is needed in crowded areas, such as public transit, and when meeting the elderly or spending time in a hospital. Masks can be removed outdoors to prevent heat stroke in summer.

Masks are not required outdoors when one is about 2m from others, or not talking to someone at a distance of less than 2m. A mask is not needed indoors when one is about 2m from others and not talking.


Mask-wearing is required indoors but optional outdoors. It is still encouraged in crowded places and for high-risk individuals.

South Korea

Masks are mandatory indoors and on public transport. There is a 100,000 won (S$105) fine if you are caught not wearing one on public transport. Wearing masks outdoors is not necessary but remains the norm.


Masks are mandatory once you leave your living quarters to go outside, but they can be taken off while exercising or doing an outdoor activity. People who work outdoors and maintain social distancing can unmask.


Wearing face masks has been voluntary since late June, in both indoor and outdoor spaces. However, the authorities advise people to wear them in crowded places or where social distancing is not possible or ventilation is bad.

In the European Union, mask mandates have been lifted, with variations from one country to the next.


Wearing masks on public transport is no longer compulsory though some towns and cities may still enforce the mandate. Face masks are no longer needed in health establishments but remain strongly recommended.


Masks are not required indoors, except in public transport situations. These include flights to and from Germany, where masks must be of FFP2 grade. From October, masks will also be required during long-distance travel by train and bus.


Masks are required in hospitals and medical settings, care homes and on public transport, except planes. They have to be of FFP2 grade.

In Britain, face masks are not required, even on public transport, although they are recommended.

In the United States, there is no longer a federal or state mask mandate. However, the Centres for Disease Control continues to recommend mask wearing in indoor public transportation settings.

  • With additional reporting by Elizabeth Law, Rohini Mohan, Nirmal Ghosh, Chang May Choon, Katherine Wei, Tan Tam Mei and Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja.

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