HK third wave: drivers to use softly-softly approach with passengers who refuse to wear masks to tackle coronavirus

16-Jul-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Public transport drivers will take a softly-softly approach with passengers who refuse to wear masks to avoid confrontations despite being empowered under Hong Kong’s latest anti-coronavirus measures to turn them in to police, trade groups say.

Drivers across the sector would use the approach as a guideline after the government announced its toughest rules to date to tackle a worsening third wave of the coronavirus outbreak, the groups said on Tuesday. Among the measures, which take effect on Wednesday, all public transport passengers must wear masks, with offenders facing a fine of up to HK$5,000.

Authorities are growing increasingly worried about the number of untraceable Covid-19 infections 54 of 182 local cases recorded since July 6 are of unknown origin.

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

According to transport groups and unions, covering rail operator the MTR Corporation, taxis, minibuses and public buses, drivers are advised to first give passengers a friendly reminder if they are not wearing masks.

The groups all welcomed the new regulation, saying it would make it easier for drivers to require passengers to wear a mask as a preventive measure against the spread of Covid-19.

“If any passenger is found without a mask on, the bus driver will ask the passenger to wear a mask. If he/she refuses to do so, the driver will ask the passenger to get off the bus. If the passenger refuses to leave, as a last resort the driver will call police,” said Henry Hui Hon-kit, chair of the Citybus Employees Union.

Hui said the regulation meant bus drivers could avoid unnecessary conflict with those who refused to put on a mask.

He recalled that in late January a passenger in a wheelchair got on his bus but refused to wear a mask or leave the vehicle.

“For the safety of other passengers and also myself, I had no choice but to call police to handle the passenger. Eventually he left the bus,” Hui said.

Hui said the wearing of masks should have been made compulsory earlier.

“As the government failed to impose this mandatory measure, some passengers refused to wear a mask while taking public transport,” he said.

Hong Kong Federation of Railway Trade Unions vice-chair Tam Kin-chiu said MTR station staff and drivers all tried to use persuasion when dealing with passengers.

“We will try to persuade the passenger to put on a mask for the sake of public health and safety. If they don’t have a mask, staff may provide one. If the passenger refuses to wear a mask or leave the MTR station, we’ll call police,” he said.

Tam said passengers had recently started to lower their guard and some did not use a mask. He said he would ask the MTR management to provide more masks for station staff to hand out to those without.

Public Light Bus general Association chair Ling Chi-keung said minibus drivers had already been asking those without a mask to get off their vehicle, and that other passengers would also pile the pressure on.

“Actually, other passengers have become gatekeepers now. I can say nowadays more than 90 per cent of passengers wear a mask. Those who don’t are some obstinate old people. But when other passengers ask them to wear a mask, they usually follow,” he said.

Ng Kwan-sing, vice-chair of the Hong Kong Taxi Council, said there were many cases of passengers forgetting to put on their masks after meals.

“Taxi drivers are advised to give friendly reminders to these passengers instead of engaging in a fight with them,” he said.

“If some forget to bring their masks, actually cabbies could offer one to them. I think the new regulation can help reduce conflicts between cabbies and passengers over the wearing of masks.”


Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post