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Banks tell HK staff to work from home after China visit

  • Cathy Chan

    Bloomberg

Hong Kong   /   Tue, January 28, 2020   /   02:15 pm
Banks tell HK staff to work from home after China visit Commuters arriving in Hong Kong wear facemasks as they pass the cross boundary restricted area inside the high-speed train station connecting Hong Kong to mainland China during a public holiday in celebration of the Lunar New Year in Hong Kong on January 28, 2020, as a preventative measure following a virus outbreak which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan. - China on January 28 urged its citizens to postpone travel abroad as it expanded unprecedented efforts to contain a viral outbreak that has killed 106 people and left other governments racing to pull their nationals from the contagion's epicentre. (AFP/Anthony Wallace)

Global banks from Credit Suisse Group SA to Morgan Stanley are telling Hong Kong staff to work from home for two weeks if they’ve just visited mainland China, as they step up their response to the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.

UBS Group AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are among financial firms that have also imposed travel restrictions to the mainland, where the death toll now exceeds 100. Some including Standard Chartered Plc are providing staff with face masks and hand sanitizers, along with guidance on hygiene and how to avoid getting sick.

The measures follow Hong Kong’s decision Saturday to raise its response level to “emergency” to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, which is believed to have an incubation period of around 14 days.

The Hong Kong government is urging residents returning from China to stay home for 14 days, and announced the temporary closing of all sports and cultural facilities starting Wednesday. It’s advising civil servants to work from home after the Lunar New Year holidays except for emergency reasons and essential services, and asking other employers to follow suit.

Below is the latest on how banks with operations in Hong Kong are responding to the outbreak, which began in early December in Wuhan, central China, before spreading around the country and abroad.

Credit Suisse

Employees at Credit Suisse must talk with their division manager and human resources before returning to work after the two-week period, according to an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg. Anyone with fever or flu-like symptoms is required to work from home until a doctor certifies the person is well enough to return, it said. The memo said the International Commerce Center tower, where it has its main offices, would be starting temperature checks as well. Hong Kong-based spokeswomen didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment during the public holiday.

Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley is urging staff to defer non-essential travel to and within mainland China, according to a company memo seen by Bloomberg and confirmed by a Hong Kong-based spokesman. Employees returning from the mainland must work from home for 14 days and then only return to work if they’re symptom-free. It has convened a crisis management team to ensure business continuity.

Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs has recommended delaying non-essential business travel to all mainland China cities, a spokesperson said. The US firm is also implementing flexible work arrangements for Hong Kong employees should they need to stay home.

Standard Chartered

Standard Chartered has told employees not to travel to Hubei province and is restricting travel elsewhere in mainland China and Hong Kong, a spokeswoman said. Employees and their family members returning from Hubei are being asked to work from home for 14 days. The UK bank is reducing face-to-face meetings and encouraging the use of technology to work remotely.

UBS

UBS said in a memo to staff -- confirmed by a spokesman -- that its Hong Kong office will be open as normal on Wednesday and asked employees in the city and Singapore to work remotely if they had returned from the mainland within the past 14 days.

BNP Paribas

BNP Paribas SA is urging staff who visited China in the past 14 days to stay at home for two weeks upon their return and to work from home as appropriate, people familiar with the matter said. A spokeswoman for BNP in Hong Kong declined to comment.

Citigroup

A spokesman for Citigroup Inc. in Hong Kong said its employees were being asked to report any personal travel to Wuhan or the surrounding area and to work from home for two weeks after returning. Business travel to the area was restricted earlier, he said.

Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank AG has sent a memo to Hong Kong staff recommending they work from home for seven days after any China visit, according to people familiar with the matter. There won’t be any staff in the office on Tuesday because of China’s New Year holidays, one person said. A spokeswoman declined to comment.