Coronavirus: Hong Kong’s workers have lunch in parks, construction sites, as dine-in ban kicks in amid third wave
Workers braved the rain and heat while having lunch outdoors, with some blaming the government for being “unreasonable”, as Hong Kong’s sweeping ban on dine-in services kicked in on Wednesday amid the third wave of Covid-19.
Facing backlash, a government source said community halls and sports grounds would be open for lunch.
Authorities have implemented the strictest measures to date in a bid to contain the surge in coronavirus infections, including capping gatherings to no more than two people except for those from a same family, and requiring mask-wearing in all public areas.
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The new regulations are set to last a week. Restaurants were earlier banned from offering dine-in services between 6pm and 5am.
“It’s inconvenient but we have no choice because of Covid-19. Normally we’d go to a nearby eatery during lunch to sit down, relax, and cool down in the air-conditioned space,” said a 40-year-old construction worker surnamed Chan.
Although some tables with partitions had been set up inside a construction site in Causeway Bay, Chan chose to not have his lunch there.
“I want to avoid crowded areas as much as possible. There’s a lot of dust and it’s really dirty inside, so I thought it would be better to eat here,” he said.
Another worker, surnamed Chow, who was having his lunch in a park, felt the government’s move was “completely unreasonable”.
“The Hong Kong government allowed foreigners in the city (through quarantine exemptions for seafarers and aircrew) to spread the disease. Why aren’t Hongkongers allowed to dine in when it’s so hot outside?” he told the media.
A worker known as Kam Fai, also at the site, said he was willing to bear the heat for the sake of public health. “The government implemented the rules because so many people are getting sick. I understand why it had to be done and I think it’s a good decision,” the 40 year-old Pakistani said.
Other blue-collar workers scrambled to find shelter outside shopping malls or on roadsides when it started raining.
At Polytechnic University in Hung Hom, a designated area was set up for contractual workers to have lunch on campus. Dozens of chairs with attached desks, as well as fans, were placed in an area in the podium for workers to eat and rest.
Meanwhile, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Wan Chai set up an area with tables and chairs for the public to eat from 7am to 10pm.
Some office workers took advantage of air-conditioned spaces in shopping malls, while others had to make do at parks or even under the shelter of bus terminuses.
Wong Ping, chairman of the Hong Kong Construction Industry Employees General Union, said many construction workers might have to eat on the streets, or gather inside cramped resting areas at building sites.
“Rooms designated for workers to take a break on construction sites have limited space. If many workers gather there to have their meals, the infection risks might still be high,” Wong told a radio programme on Wednesday morning.
He urged employers to allow construction workers to have lunch in batches for more flexibility, as smaller groups might help reduce health risks.
Denny To Chun-ho, of the Cleaning Industry Service Workers Union, told the same radio programme that some cleaners might have to have their lunch at parks or even inside public toilets following the government’s latest regulations.
“Although the government’s intentions behind implementing the measures may be good, officials have missed out on the needs of many who work outdoors,” he said.
“Cleaners at public refuse collection points have to work in very unhygienic environments. The (government) move will not benefit but only harm them.”
But Hung, a street cleaner at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, said she was lucky to have a space to enjoy her meal.
“The new rule doesn’t make much of a difference for me. I bring my own lunch and eat at a designated area for workers,” she said.
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