25 April 2019
It's back to work in Hong Kong, although much of the city is still paralyzed. Photo: AFP
It's back to work in Hong Kong, although much of the city is still paralyzed. Photo: AFP

Why Hong Kong just can’t afford an extra day off

The morning after the monster typhoon Mangkhut wreaked havoc in Hong Kong, most workers are confronted with the question: should I or shouldn’t I – i.e., go to work?

Most of us are eager to get right back to work after the terrifying experience of being cooped up at home on what was supposed to be our rest day, listening to the howling wind and lashing rain, feeling our residential building rattle and shake, and worrying if the glass windows that protect us from nature’s wrath outside would shatter.

Though still shell-shocked, we feel grateful to have gone through those horrendous hours still in one piece. And so going back to work is our way of wanting to return to normalcy, to business as usual, at the soonest possible time.

But, alas, the city is far from normal. Many roads are still impassable because of the fallen trees and scattered debris, or rendered one way as vehicles take turns in skirting the roadblocks.

That is, if you are lucky enough to get public transport to reach your destination. The Kowloon Motor Bus, the city’s largest bus operator owned by Sun Hung Kai Properties, and its sister company Long Win Bus, which runs the Lantau Island line, have suspended their daytime services for safety reasons.

New World First Bus and Citybus, both owned by New World Development, also suspended their services.

That means almost one-third of the public transport has been paralyzed.

If you live in the outlying islands, transport is also hard to get as First Ferry, also owned by New World Development, has only limited services at the moment.

True, you can choose not to live in these big developers’ housing projects, but it’s difficult to avoid using their transport services.

So with the bus services not working, the only available transport option for many is the MTR. But the East Rail service is disrupted by debris and damaged signals along the way, resulting in long queues and chaotic scenes at Tai Wai and several other stations.

This has led some people to ask why our government, which should be applauded for doing a good job in preparing for the super typhoon, did not seem to give much thought about our working population.

The government was quick to suspend classes in all schools from kindergarten to university Sunday afternoon, but why did it not think of giving our hard-working workers an extra holiday?

Of course, our workers are eager to get back to work, but they deserve at least another day off as roads and transport services are being restored.

It will take days, perhaps even weeks, before things return to normal.  More than 1,500 trees fell as a result of Mangkhut’s fury, twice the number recorded during Typhoon Hato last year. Reported injuries reached about 400, more than three times the number during Hato.

Many workers in Shenzhen and Guangdong were given an extra day off today amid the authorities’ concern for public safety. 

Well, not in Hong Kong, where the laissez-faire policy is observed, and making money is the cardinal virtue.

Let’s just count our blessings – especially the fact that despite its fury, Mangkhut has left our people largely unharmed. 

Hong Kong Inc. is back in business, even though much of the city is paralyzed.

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer

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