Coronavirus: HSBC to reopen main Hong Kong office on Monday

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) – HSBC Holdings Plc will reopen its main Hong Kong office on Monday (March 22), after being closed last week in the wake of three people testing positive for Covid-19.

“Precautionary measures – such as wearing masks, pre-entry temperature screening, hand sanitisers, spaced queuing and portable acrylic screens at open banking counters – will continue to be in place,” according to a statement from the bank.

The office underwent a deep cleaning and disinfection last week, it said.

The outbreak came as a wave of infections hit the city’s business and expatriate community.

In a memo, HSBC is advising that only critical staff should come into any of its premises, with staff required to maintain a distance of at least 1.5m apart and wear masks at all times.

The bank’s iconic main building in Hong Kong is located at 1 Queen’s Road Central, in the heart of the city’s business district. Visitors who stayed at the building for more than two hours between March 3 and 16 were required to undergo virus testing.

While it’s unclear how many staff were impacted, HSBC had 30,000 employees in Hong Kong, which contributed to more than 90 per cent of its adjusted pretax profit last year.

The recent uptick in cases came after an outbreak at a Hong Kong gym popular among expatriates.

The spread came just as the city was emerging from a prolonged round of social restrictions and venue closures. The renewed infections have prompted financial firms, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and UBS Group AG, to have more employees to work from home.

The cluster linked to the gym, Ursus Fitness, is the city’s second-biggest of the pandemic, with 142 cases as of Sunday. Authorities have sent at least 860 close contacts of those infected to quarantine.

A city of 7.5 million, Hong Kong’s strict approach has arguably helped the city contain its total Covid cases at around 11,000, far below levels in other major trading hubs including Singapore.

Unlike New York City and London, Hong Kong has avoided citywide lockdowns throughout the pandemic. Close contacts of positive cases must enter centralised surveillance facilities for two weeks, and residents entering from outside of China have to spend 21 days in designated hotels.

Still, some critics in the financial community have called Hong Kong’s quarantine rules overly burdensome and at times inconsistent.

Others have said the government needs to improve communication of its policies, including how it determines close contacts, and figure out better ways to accommodate children and others with special needs.

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