Press Releases in Hong Kong

Banks order Hong Kong office changes as COVID-19 cases rise

The Hong Kong headquarters of Standard Chartered (third left) and HSBC (right) are seen against the backdrop of Victoria Harbour and Kowloon, as viewed from the Peak, in Hong Kong, on Jan 3, 2009. (ANTONY DICKSON / AFP)

HONG KONG – Banks in Hong Kong including HSBC Holdings Plc and UBS Group AG are taking steps to reduce the number of people at the workplace after having operated at near full capacity for the past few months, as the city faces a spike in COVID-19 cases.

HSBC, which is one of the biggest employers in Hong Kong with about 30,000 people, will maintain a maximum of 50 percent staff occupancy in its offices from Friday, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters. A spokesperson for HSBC confirmed the memo's content.

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Standard Chartered divided its 6,000 workforce into teams earlier this week. Critical teams of the London-headquartered bank have implemented a Team A/Team B working arrangement, a spokesperson said, adding other units are being encouraged to follow suit

Bank of America has encouraged its staff to work from home from Jan 7-24, according to the US bank's internal memo seen by Reuters. A bank spokesman confirmed the contents of the memo that was sent on Thursday.

Earlier, UBS said in a memo to staff that it would split its 2,500 Hong Kong workforce into two groups, with each returning to the workplace on alternate weeks.

The moves come amid worries of a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections in the Asian financial hub. Hong Kong has announced a two-week ban on some inbound flights, slapped curbs on indoor dining and closed swimming pools, bars and other venues.

The city recorded 33 new coronavirus cases on Thursday.

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Staff at HSBC and UBS have been told to minimize cross-floor travel in their offices and not to socialize with members not in their own team, according to the memos.

HSBC, UBS and Bank of America also said staff had to wear masks when not at their desks, according to their memos.

Standard Chartered divided its 6,000 workforce into teams earlier this week. Critical teams of the London-headquartered bank have implemented a Team A/Team B working arrangement, a spokesperson said, adding other units are being encouraged to follow suit.

Financial institutions in Hong Kong have been operating at almost full capacity for the past few months, unlike most other major centers like New York or London, as the city stuck to a zero-COVID strategy with strict anti-epidemic measures.

On Dec 31, a streak of three months without community cases ended with the first local transmission of the Omicron variant.