Banned from Indoor Dining, Hong Kong’s Blue Collar Workers Are Eating Lunch in Public Toilets

May May (C), 61, lowers her facemask, used as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, as she sits down in a fast food chain to eat a free meal box given out by Gingko House restaurant from the basement of their Yau Ma Tei branch in Hong Kong on …

Many of Hong Kong’s blue-collar workers are struggling to find a decent place to eat after the Beijing-controlled government imposed social distancing measures aimed at preventing a second wave of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.

A new ban on dining in came into effect on Wednesday, meaning workers are no longer allowed to eat their takeaway meals in restaurants. While this is not an issue for office workers who can still enjoy their lunch break in air-conditioned buildings, blue-collar workers are being deprived of a chance to cool off after hours of manual labor in the sweltering heat.

On Wednesday, many construction workers were seen eating outside of restaurants or sidewalks, while others were seen scrambling for cover as heavy rain descended around midday.

Speaking to Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), the chairman of the Hong Kong Construction Industry Employees General Union, Wong Ping, pointed out that workers now “have to consume their meals outdoors either at the construction site, or on the streets, rain or shine.”

He added that “workers will be deprived of a chance to rest and cool down after having worked for hours in the sweltering heat, and some of them could be prone to heatstroke,” RTHK reported.

The head of the Cleaning Service Industry Workers Union, Denny To, also expressed his concerns, pointing out that many cleaners may end up eating their lunch inside refuse-collection points or public toilets, leading to major hygiene issues.

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, who remains a fierce critic of the administration, pointed out that the Hong Kong government had failed to prepare for such scenarios by refusing to provide public spaces.

“Kneeling down for meals in an international city,” he wrote disapprovingly alongside a photo of a man doing just that. “Today is the first day that [the Hong Kong government] bans all dine-in services at restaurants. [Hong Kongers] are forced to finish their meals outdoors.”

“Reluctant to provide sufficient public spaces for years, [the Hong Kong government] also failed to provide any guidelines to blue-collars and elderly before the ban,” he continued. “In 30-degree heat with rounds of showers, they were forced to finish their lunch by sitting or kneeling down on city streets.”

The measures form part of the government’s latest strategy to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus after an uptick in cases across Asia. As of Thursday morning, the city of 7.5 million has so far recorded just 3,003 coronavirus cases and 24 deaths, an extremely impressive figure given its proximity to the Chinese mainland and the recent wave of anti-China demonstrations that saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets against Beijing’s illegal “national security law.”

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