New York City to drop key pandemic control measures

New York City will suspend Covid-19 vaccine passport programme and remove indoor mask mandate in public schools for K-12 students starting from next Monday, said Mayor Eric Adams on Friday.

The decision is based on a sharp drop of new Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations as well as 96 per cent of vaccination rate among adults in the city, Xinhua news agency reported.

New York State lifted the statewide mask mandate for schools on Wednesday while students and staff members in public schools of New York City were no longer required to wear masks outdoors starting from this Monday.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said: “With the steady decline in cases and hospitalizations from the Omicron peak, we are now safely entering a new phase of the pandemic.”

Claiming a clear victory in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, Adams said, “Indoor venues, including restaurants, fitness facilities, and entertainment spaces will no longer be required to check for proof of vaccination before customers enter,” with the Key to NYC program to be suspended.

Businesses previously covered by the program still could opt to require proof of vaccination or masking indoors.

Public schools also could continue to maintain strict Covid-19 protocols including increased ventilation, a daily screener and test kit distribution.

Plus, masks will continue to be required for all settings with children under five years of age, who are not qualified to get vaccinated yet.

“Cases are down 99 per cent and we did not have to close a single school since January,” said David C. Banks, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, the largest school system in the US.

Banks added making masks optional gives families and educators a choice while remaining vigilant through high levels of testing and following the advice of public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Adams said all other Covid-19 mandates will remain in effect and employees will still be required to be vaccinated unless they have received a reasonable accommodation from their employer.

Meanwhile, New York City also introduced a new colour-coded system consisting of four alert levels of Covid-19 risks. Now, New York City stays at the “Low” level meaning there is low Covid-19 community spread.

The seven-day average percentage of positive Covid-19 test results in the city dropped to 1.09 per cent on Wednesday with 926 people testing positive, according to data issued by the New York State on Thursday.

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