Hong Kong’s public transport operators have been forced to cut their services as large numbers of their employees have been infected by Covid-19 in the unrelenting fifth-wave outbreak.

Local media reported that an additional 212 Covid-19 cases were found among MTR Corporation (MTRC) staff members on Tuesday. Those providing train services and maintenance, as well as contractors, were affected. This brings the total number of infected employees at the transport and property giant to around 1,300 since the fifth wave began.

2021 LegCo Election: Free MTR Rides
Crowds in the MTR. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The city’s sole train service provider said the situation – coupled with a number of employees unable to attend work due to being listed as close contacts by the Centre for Health Protection or their buildings being put under lockdown – has posed “a tremendous challenge to rail operations.”

On Tuesday, the company had to reduce operations during morning and evening peak hours on the Tuen Ma Line and cut back train services in the Hong Kong Island Line during morning rush hours. A number of customer service centres were also temporarily closed due to the staff shortage.

busy mtr
Photo: HKFP.

The corporation said if the situation worsened, it might further adjust train services or temporarily close certain stations .

According to the MTRC’s 2021 interim report, it had 17,067 employees in Hong Kong. The company’s website said more than two-thirds of its local staff members worked in the transport services unit.

Covid-19 hits bus operators hard

Additionally, more than 1,000 staff of Hong Kong’s three major bus service providers have been unable to go to work due to Covid-19 infections or quarantine.

Bravo Transport, which owns New World First Bus and Citybus, told Ming Pao that a total of 415 employees at the two bus operators had tested positive as of Tuesday, while another 206 were classified as close contacts.

Last Saturday, the Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) company announced that over 570 staffers, including bus drivers and maintenance workers, were unable to work because of quarantine or infection, accounting for 7 per cent of the company’s employees.

Hong Kong bus. File photo: GovHK.

KMB distributed rapid antigen test kits to its employees and, from Tuesday, it requested all bus drivers and maintenance personnel to test daily and only start their work after producing a negative result.

On Tuesday, KMB published a release stating that customer services centres at Tuen Mun Road Bus Interchange and Tsim Sha Tsui had been temporarily closed until Sunday, while some other centres saw a reduction in operation hours “to tie in with infection control and prevention measures.”

Since the start of the pandemic, Hong Kong has reported 205,780 confirmed cases and 1,013 deaths.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.