Banks In Hong Kong Instruct Staff To Work From Home
HONG KONG – Some multinational financial firms operating in the Chinese territory told its employees to work from home (WFH) from Tuesday, while the government also gave a similar directive to civil servants after a spate of COVID-19 infections in the city a week before the busy Lunar New Year holiday, reported Reuters on Monday afternoon (24 January, SGT).
As COVID-19 and the more contagious Omicron variant ripple across Hong Kong into hospitals, schools, and government offices, some businesses have started to implement contingency measures.
In a statement on Monday, Standard Chartered announced that it is encouraging all of its staff in the global financial hub to work from home when possible. In particular, employees with crucial functions will work in split teams. Notably, the bank’s outlet in COVID-hit Kwai Chung area was temporarily shuttered.
The move follows UBS Group AG’s decision to shift to remote work for all staff, except for a minimum number of employees who have important tasks that must be completed in the office, based on an internal memo seen by Reuters.
Compared to similar cities like Singapore, where 90 percent of the population have been double vaccinated, just more than 70 percent of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million population have done so.
On Monday, government officials reported that there were 109 new COVID cases. Of these, 98 were locally transmitted, while 5 were untraceable. Daily cases also reached an 18-month high of 140 on Sunday, driven by an outbreak in a congested public housing estate.
With the looming Lunar New Year holiday, Hong Kong has locked down thousands of people in the Kwai Chung estate for 5 days. Around 35,000 face some restrictions and must undergo daily tests, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said during the weekend.
The situation is testing the city’s “zero-COVID” strategy, as gyms and schools are already closed, restaurants closing at 6pm, and many major air links severed or disrupted. There’s only a “slim chance” that the city-wide restrictions could be withdrawn on 4 February 2022 as had been planned, added Lam.