Sydneysiders are keen to keep working from home, transport data suggests, as a small number of new COVID-19 infections continue to be linked to clusters around the city.
- Tap-on data in Sydney CBD has dropped by over half compared to a year ago
- Sydney’s public transport network recorded about 1.4 million trips a day last month
- Pre-pandemic averages were about 2.4 million trips a day
While trips on Sydney’s public transport network had shown signs of recovery — patronage in December was at the highest levels since March’s lockdowns — an ABC analysis of tap-on data shows it has since fallen off a cliff.
About 80,000 to 100,000 trips were taken during the peak morning and afternoon periods in Sydney on Monday, when many people returned to work after a summer break.
That’s less than half of the 200,000 to 250,000 trips on the corresponding day last year.
A total of about 1 million trips were taken on Monday, half that of the second Monday in January a year ago.
About 200,000 tap-ons were recorded in the Sydney CBD, compared with 500,000 a year ago.
The public health orders requiring employers to allow staff to work remotely were repealed on December 14.
On December 11, trips on Sydney’s public transport network — which includes buses, trains, light rail, ferries and metros — reached their highest level since the pandemic reached Australia in March.
About 1.4 million trips were taken each day in mid-December, still well below pre-pandemic averages of about 2.4 million a day in early March.
However, the first cases linked to the Avalon Cluster on Sydney’s northern beaches were revealed on December 16.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian yesterday said workers needed to use common sense if they were going to head back to the office.
“We don’t want to discourage any activity, so long as it is done in a COVID-safe way,” she said.
She said mandatory masks on public transport were a “fourth line of defence” against the virus.
In October, when NSW had almost two weeks without any locally acquired COVID-19 cases, Ms Berejiklian encouraged the state’s public sector to return to offices.
Not a ‘fresh start to the new year’
AC3, an IT service provider, employs 285 people in Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland.
CEO Simon Xistouris said only 15 of the 242 staff who work in the company’s Pitt Street headquarters chose to go in to the office on Monday.
“I was quietly hoping that people would come back after Christmas, they would think, ‘OK, great, let’s start fresh in the new year, let’s start getting back into the office,,” he said.
“But yesterday and today, we haven’t seen that.”
Mr Xistouris said the company had a policy of enabling staff to work remotely during the pandemic, but in December, had encouraged people to come back to the office in the new year.
Up to Christmas, 84 per cent of the company’s staff were working from home.
He said regular staff surveys had shown that when asked why staff wanted to work at home, about 90 per cent had cited their concerns about using public transport.
Many of the AC3 workers have long commutes, including from Sydney’s northern beaches, and the Sutherland Shire.
“I think the recent cluster outbreaks in Berala and the northern beaches has shaken a few people,” he said.
“I think by and large, the largest reason for not coming to the office is the commute.
“People are worried and just don’t want to risk it.”
The Berala cluster now stands at 27, with another case reported yesterday.
Mr Xistouris said productivity had increased while people were working from home and the reason for encouraging staff back to the office was to protect their mental health.
“People are isolated, they are working in their own home,” he said.
“We’re seeing signs of people getting stressed out, burnt out, anxious, short tempered.”
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