HSBC, the biggest of Hong Kong’s three currency-issuing lenders, has asked all of its staff in the city to ensure they are vaccinated against the coronavirus after regulators asked financial institutions to “proactively encourage” their employees to take the vaccine in the latest push to increase inoculation rates in the financial centre.
Staff members who have not received their first dose of the vaccine should do so by November 30 or submit to a Covid-19 test every two weeks, according to a memo issued by the bank. HSBC is based in London, but counts Hong Kong as its largest market.
The contents of the memo were confirmed by a bank spokeswoman on Friday.
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Last week, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) and other watchdogs asked the financial industry, from banks to insurers, to encourage their employees to be vaccinated by the end of this month or face bi-weekly testing.
The Hong Kong Economic Times reported the HSBC memo earlier on Friday.
Many global banks have been encouraging their employees to get vaccinated after months of working from home or limiting the number of people in offices to avoid sidelining teams.
HSBC, for example, was forced to close its main office in Hong Kong for several days in March after three employees tested positive for Covid-19 and a cluster at a gym frequented by bankers and other professionals forced hundreds of close-contacts into quarantine.
Since early September, Goldman Sachs has required all employees and visitors to its US offices to be fully vaccinated, and JPMorgan Chase banned travel and in-person meetings by unvaccinated employees last month.
But the move by HSBC, which employs about 30,000 people in Hong Kong including Hang Seng Bank, could be an important bellwether as city officials push to increase vaccination rates in the hopes of reopening the border with mainland China for quarantine-free travel on a limited basis as early as next month.
HSBC previously asked all “critical” staff, particularly those in client-facing roles, to be vaccinated when it fully reopened its offices in June, following a similar request from city officials.
Nearly 69 per cent of Hong Kong’s population have received at least one dose of the vaccine, but the city lags behind vaccination rates in the United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore.
Hong Kong authorities have faced criticism from the financial community over the city’s “zero Covid” policy, which includes up to 21 days in hotel quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers.
Other financial centres, such as London, New York and Singapore, are removing travel restrictions for the vaccinated and adopting other measures to make life easier for those who have taken the vaccine.
On Thursday, the US Labor Department, for example, instituted new rules that mean many employers will need to ensure their employees are vaccinated by January 4 or face weekly Covid-19 testing.
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