British-based, Asia-focused bank HSBC has closed down several floors of its landmark main Hong Kong office from Friday after several staff tested positive for Covid-19.
The closure comes as Hong Kong’s business and financial institutions react to a coronavirus outbreak that is growing rapidly despite a so-called “dynamic zero” government policy that calls for suppression rather than containment of the virus.
Health officials are expected to a record 3,600 new cases on Friday, with a further 7,600 testing preliminarily positive.
People who test positive in Hong Kong for the virus are sent to public hospitals for isolation while their close contacts are ordered to isolate for 14 days, sometimes in austere government facilities.
HSBC said that it would temporarily close the BL1, L3, L5 and L6 levels of its headquarters in Hong Kong’s Central district.
The bank did not indicate how long the closure would last or how it would affect operations in the iconic Norman Foster-designed tower in the heart of Hong Kong’s Central district.
HSBC said it would also close five other branches and offices in the city that had been visited by staff who had tested positive.
Main Post Office Reopens
The General Post Office, also in Central, reopened on Friday after closing for two days when a postman tested positive.
Thursday’s closures brings the number of HSBC locations affected in the city this month due to the pandemic to at least 25. HSBC said the locations would be disinfected and staff required to get Covid-19 tests.
Hong Kong reported a record high 6,116 new infections on Thursday.
“Owing to the characteristics of the virus, the scale and pace of the community outbreak have outgrown the capacities of the various parts of our anti-epidemic chain,” Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam told the city’s rubber-stamp Legislative Council on Thursday.
As Hong Kong scrambles to accommodate a rising caseload, Lam said more than 20 hotels have expressed their intention to turn into community isolation facilities, providing more than 20,000 rooms.
Parents have rushed children as young as 3 years old to vaccination centres this week as the government lowered the age limit for the shots and the deaths of two toddlers exacerbated concerns in a city struggling to cope with a Covid-19 surge.
- George Russell