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Coronavirus: Hong Kong calls on banks to push staff to get vaccinated

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) – Hong Kong urged all banks to “strongly encourage” staff in client-facing roles or support functions to get vaccinated for Covid-19 as the city struggles with local resistance to its free roll-out.

Banks should “identify and draw up a list of designated staff expected to receive inoculation”, Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) deputy chief executive Arthur Yuen said in a circular to financial institutions on Tuesday (June 1).

Banks are required to submit the list of designated staff within two weeks.

The administration is increasingly looking to enlist local businesses and institutions to help get people vaccinated, as the Beijing-backed government struggles to convince reluctant residents in an atmosphere of mistrust following widespread anti-China protests in 2019.

A low rate of infections in the city has also damped demand for vaccinations.

Major companies, restaurants and even colleges have so far started offering cash payouts and extra time off. Residents even stand the chance to win a US$1.4 million (S$1.85 million) apartment.

The list should include staff involved in branch operations, wealth management and commercial banking, who have frequent face-to-face interactions with customers, the city’s de facto central bank said.

Employees responsible for critical information technology, data centre, treasury and settlement operations should also be included.

Staff included on the list should undergo their first Covid-19 test by June 30, if they have not taken the first dose of the vaccine by then, the HKMA said.

“Promoting a high vaccination rate is a collective effort of the whole community,” Mr Yuen said in the circular. “It would also provide the requisite foundation for Hong Kong to restart international travel, which is crucial for us to maintain Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre.”

The city is also easing its strict quarantine rules for senior executives travelling in and out of the financial hub to further boost business.

The HKMA urged banks to follow the government’s recent practice to give extra days of leave to vaccinated staff.

Bookings have surged since incentives were rolled out, but the city still lags behind in its vaccination rate.

About 13.6 per cent of Hong Kong residents have been fully inoculated, even though it is one of the few places that offers shots for free to all adults, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker.

That is well below 40.7 per cent in the United States and neighbouring Singapore’s 28.3 per cent.

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