https://sg.news.yahoo.com/coronavirus-h ... AnAECHQM3P
Letter, parcels and, crucially, thousands of packages of surgical masks that have piled up over the past week will soon be back on the move with the resumption of limited postal services on Monday.
As thousands of Hongkongers queued up across the city on Saturday in hopes of scoring free masks amid an ongoing shortage, officials confirmed post offices will be reopening, albeit with a truncated delivery schedule and shortened hours.
Post offices will be open between 11am and 3pm on weekdays, and between 9.30am and 1pm on Saturday, something likely to create longer queues and waiting times at service counters, it was announced.
Mail will be delivered and collected from posting boxes on alternate days, while the post office’s Speedpost service, which resumed on Wednesday, will continue a Monday through Saturday schedule.
General mail delivery and post office counter services were suspended following the Lunar New Year holiday amid growing worries over the coronavirus outbreak.
Since service was suspended, more than 18,000 parcels and pieces of mail from the Speedpost service alone have accumulated at Hong Kong’s air mail centre, according to Union of Hong Kong Post Office Employees chairman Ip Kam-fu. About 5,600 of those packages were believed to contain face masks based on customs declarations, he said.
“Because postal services in many other countries including Japan and Korea operated normally throughout the Lunar New Year holiday, although it was a public holiday in Hong Kong without delivery services, many inbound Speedpost mails and parcels have been backlogged at the air mail centre for days,” he said.
He said postal staff at the air mail centre and Speedpost delivery centres had been identifying parcels containing masks to give them priority.
Hongkong Post said in a statement on Saturday night that about 3,000 of the letters and parcels at the air mail centre contained masks, adding that extra staff would be deployed to work longer hours on Sunday to handle them. It predicted the deliveries could be completed by Monday.
Thousands of Hong Kong residents in search of surgical masks, meanwhile, queued up on Saturday as businesses and politicians handed out free ones amid an ongoing shortage.
The queues, an increasingly common sight, came a day after the city confirmed its 13th infection.
EGL Tours, a local travel agency, began distributing 4,000 masks at 2pm in Tsim Sha Tsui after giving out 1,800 the day before. It had 20,000 masks in total.
On its Facebook page, it said 800 people could get five masks each, and those with Hong Kong ID cards would be prioritised. About 600 people were already waiting at 1.30pm, with some having arrived two hours earlier.
On Thursday, the government said more than 32 million masks would be available for public use. But residents in the city of 7.52 million have struggled to get their hands on protective gear in recent weeks.
The World Health Organisation declared a global public health emergency on Thursday over the virus’ spread, with more than 11,940 people infected worldwide. Most of the cases were reported in mainland China, the centre of the outbreak, and the death toll there now stands at more than 250.
To help ease the mask shortage, health care firm Watsons said it would distribute some of its stock to elderly people served by YWCA of Hong Kong.
“Although it can’t fulfil the needs of all people, we hope to survive the hard time with society,” it said on Friday.
Watsons, one of the largest health care and beauty care chains in Asia, is part of tycoon Li Ka-shing’s business empire.