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Govt workers return to offices amid virus concerns

2020-03-02 HKT 11:42
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  • Govt workers return to offices amid virus concerns
  • MTR stations like Kowloon Tong saw a jump in the number of passengers. Photo: RTHK
    MTR stations like Kowloon Tong saw a jump in the number of passengers. Photo: RTHK
Violet Wong reports
Hong Kong civil servants returned to their offices on Monday after weeks of a work-from-home arrangement which was implemented to prevent larger outbreaks of coronavirus in the city.

But some departments have arranged employees to work on alternative days to minimise social contact, as some workers raised concerns about exposure to the virus during their commute and a lack of face masks.

At the Innovation and Technology Bureau, employees said some workers would going to work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while some others would work only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

An Immigration Department worker said that they are also adopting flexible work arrangements. One worker said he was asked to start work half an hour later, from 9:42am, to stagger working hours.

Some departments had put up notices indicating that visitors entering the office were required to wear masks, otherwise they would be asked to leave.

Members of the public who had come to the offices generally welcomed the resumption of work by government departments. Workers of a law firm who had gone to the tax bureau said there were only limited services available before and there would not be a large backlog if services returned to normal.

Some people who had gone in for business registration and payment of stamp duty said there were more counters open to provide services than before.

But as workers started coming in, some of them said they were concerned about a lack of face masks.

A man surnamed Chan, who works at the Food and Health Bureau, said he had difficulty in getting hold of face masks and had to queue up at shops selling them.

Another employee who described herself as a "middle level manager" said her department had provided just one box of face masks for them. She declined to reveal her identity, or her department.

The woman said she was worried about going back to work as it increases the risk of catching the virus and many people are back on the MTR.

At Admiralty Station, one MTR employee said she had seen 20 to 30 percent more passengers on Monday compared to the week before.

But still the situation has not returned to normal during the peak hours rush, when people have to wait for trains with enough space to come along to start their journey, she said.