英文

Editorial : COVID-19 outbreaks on construction sites

【明報專訊】The fourth wave of COVID-19 infections has broken out on construction sites repeatedly, and the third runway cluster at the airport has become the latest focus. The risk of cross-infection on construction sites is high because workers come and go frequently, many of them are odd-jobbers, and there are a high number of people accessing the sites. It is easy for the virus to spread when someone is infected. The recent outbreaks in old districts can be traced back to construction site clusters. The government has been sealing off buildings where an outbreak has occurred and conducting mandatory testing there. That, however, mainly targets the lower reaches of the chain of transmission. As the upper reaches are not targeted, it is difficult to eliminate the virus at source. The repeated outbreaks on large-scale government construction sites, one of which has even seen one outbreak after another, imply that there must be a major loophole in anti-pandemic efforts. The role of the Development Bureau and other relevant departments should be reviewed. Construction workers have a hand-to-mouth existence. Property developers are worried that delays in the completion of construction projects will cost them money. It is inevitable that they do not want construction to be suspended. If the authorities, for the sake of "meeting the deadlines for infrastructural projects", handle anti-pandemic work in a haphazard manner, it will be difficult to close these loopholes effectively. The government should require construction site workers to undergo mandatory testing regularly. If more than one person is infected, work must be suspended for 14 days.

Regarding the overall situation of the fight against the pandemic, it is understandable that the government has stepped up mandatory testing before the Chinese New Year. However, as the sealing-off of districts affects residents' lives, it inevitably occasions grumbling. On Monday night the government conducted sealing-off and testing operations at Tsim Sha Tsui, Yuen Long, Hung Hom and Yau Ma Tei. Experts believe that some of these operations are related to the third-runway cluster. Since the fourth wave of infections began, large-scale government construction sites have seen one infection after another. Furthermore, five people on the reconstruction site of Kwong Wah Hospital were infected, so were nine people recently in the third-runway project. These cases are also concerning. The Centre for Health Protection recently said that construction workers are at higher risk and it is worthwhile to arrange them for regular testing. In fact, as early as half a year ago, some experts had asked the government to test construction workers once a week. It is not the first time that the third-runway construction project has seen an outbreak. The Tseung Kwan O-Lam Tin Tunnel has even seen two outbreaks since the fourth wave began. The same problem has repeatedly occurred. Much time has passed, still the government has not closed the loopholes. A review is necessary.

In practice, it is difficult for site workers to prevent COVID-19 infections. Workers handling some types of work find it hard to wear a mask or sanitise their hands frequently. Since workers share lounges adapted from containers, cross-infection is easy. Furthermore, as there are many odd-jobbers and they are highly mobile, it is easy for an outbreak to spread after it occurs. The construction industry says that it launched a plan in late December last year to arrange for professional testing agencies to test workers on site. The Development Bureau said last week that it had provided testing for more than 22,000 workers on 93 construction sites and found four confirmed cases, while others tested negative. The public will inevitably ask: if anti-pandemic efforts are really such a success on construction sites, why have there been so many repeated construction site clusters of infections over the past month with easily five to six (or even more than ten) people infected on a single major site every time? Is it because testing has not been effective? Is it because some people have done a perfunctory job? Or is there another reason? The government must find out the answer. If specific technical difficulties are involved, the government should help the industry overcome them.

明報社評2021.02.03:基建地盤疫情爆不停 漏洞遲遲未堵太費解

第四波疫情屢現地盤爆疫,機場第三跑道群組成為最新焦點。地盤工地交叉感染風險大,工人出入頻繁,散工眾多,流動性高,一旦有人染疫,病毒很容易擴散,近期舊區接連爆疫,追源溯本,都與地盤群組有關,現時政府圍封爆疫大廈強制檢測,主要針對傳播鏈下游,不從上游着手,很難正本清源。政府大型工程地盤疫情反覆出現,更有同一地盤「一爆再爆」,意味一定存在重大防疫漏洞,發展局等相關部門的角色,值得檢視。地盤工人「手停口停」,建築商擔心延誤完工要賠錢,難免有不想停工的心態,如果當局也因為「基建趕工」,控疫工作得過且過,漏洞很難切實堵塞。當局應要求地盤工定期強檢,若地盤有多人確診,必須停工14天。

論抗疫大局,政府過年前加緊強檢無可厚非,可是封區影響居民生活,部分人有怨言亦屬必然。政府周一晚在尖沙嘴、元朗、紅磡及油麻地圍封檢測,有專家認為,部分封區行動,似與機場三跑群組爆發有關。第四波疫情以來,一再有政府大型地盤爆疫。另外,廣華醫院重建地盤5人染疫,以及最近機場三跑工程9人中招,同樣令人關注。衛生防護中心最近表示,建築工人較高危,值得安排他們定期檢測,其實早在大半年前,有專家已要求政府對地盤工人每周一檢。機場三跑工程爆疫並非首次,將藍隧道在第四波疫情更是兩度爆疫,相同問題一再發生,政府遲遲未有堵塞漏洞,有必要檢討。

地盤工人有實際防疫困難,部分工種很難長時間戴口罩或經常搓手,工友們共用貨櫃改建的休息室,容易交叉感染,加上散工眾多流動性高,一旦爆疫很易傳開。建造業界表示,去年12月底推出計劃,安排專業檢測機構到工地為工人檢測病毒,發展局上周表示,至今已為93工地逾2.2萬工人提供檢測,發現4宗確診,其餘皆為陰性,然而市民難免會問,如果工地控疫真的如此理想,為何過去一個月一再出現地盤群組,單是一項大型工程,動輒就有5、6人甚至10多人感染。究竟是地盤檢測不到位、有人敷衍了事,還是另有原因?政府必須找出答案,若涉具體技術困難,就應協助業界克服。

■Glossary

生字

adapt : to change sth in order to make it suitable for a new use or situation

perfunctory : done as a duty or habit, without real interest, attention or feeling

overcome : to succeed in dealing with or controlling a problem that has been preventing you from achieving sth

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