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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hong Kong Takes Its Mask Off

HONG KONG -- The World Health Organization's advisory against travel in Hong Kong, reviled as a curse on the region's economy, has been lifted, but the economy may not fully rebound quickly.

Removal of the advisory brought jubilation in Hong Kong on Friday night. Most of the people out celebrating had shed the masks that had become a symbol of Hong Kong over the past two months due to the SARS outbreak.

There was more good news Saturday, when health officials announced that no new infections had been detected in the preceding 24 hours -- the first time that had happened since the government began releasing daily figures in mid-March.

Yet experts here caution that the lifting of the advisory by itself would not restore the city's vibrancy. Hong Kong still remains on the World Health Organization's list of areas that have had new infections of SARS within the last 20 days.

The WHO removed the travel advisory after officials proved that practically all recent cases occurred among people who had been exposed to the disease and had been quarantined before they could infect others. But up to four new cases a day have been reported in the last week among such people.

The city government has set aside $128 million for a marketing campaign to resuscitate Hong Kong's tourist industry. But the government does not plan to start a big appeal to foreign tourists until Hong Kong is off the list of infected areas, a government spokesman said. This may mean waiting until July or August.