The Chief Executive's Office says the heads of government departments have been told to cut down on the use of face masks by staff as much as possible, and restrict the number given out.
Last week, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung announced that Hong Kong's prisoners would step up their production of face masks for government use, from 1.1 million per month, to 1.8 million.
But just days later, the authorities were conceding that the SAR faces a serious shortage of masks, and government workers would not be spared from this.
In a statement, the CE's office said the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau had sent out internal guidelines to unit heads regarding the distribution of masks to civil servants.
It said departments should implement restrictions, with first priority for masks to be given to medical workers.
Other government staff that should still be provided with masks, it said, are those who have frequent contact with the public or work in crowded places.
But it stressed that civil servants are not being banned from wearing masks, and they are free to wear their own – if they have any.
The programme staff union at RTHK – which is a government department – said it is the administration's responsibility to ensure the safety of frontline staff and it should exhaust all means to stabilise and ensure supplies of masks.
"Unfortunately, the government's lack of foresight and determination is constantly putting our civil servants, especially our medical professionals at risk," the union said.
It noted that journalists are among those working on the frontline to update the public about the outbreak situation and this makes them a high-risk group.
"We urge the government to act proactively and take preventative measures seriously before it's too late".
Chief Executive Carrie Lam mentioned the new guidelines on Tuesday morning when she was asked why she had now stopped wearing face masks for media briefings.
She also urged the journalists present to consider not wearing masks.
Govt departments ordered to restrict mask use
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