Hong Kong Calls on Banks to Push Staff to Get Vaccinated

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Hong Kong urged all banks to “strongly encourage” staff in client-facing roles or support functions to get vaccinated as the city struggles with local resistance to its free rollout.

Banks should “identify and draw up a list of designated staff expected to receive inoculation,” Hong Kong Monetary Authority Deputy Chief Executive Arthur Yuen said in a circular to financial institutions on Tuesday. 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, extra time off, and even the chance to win a $1.4 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 IT, data center, 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,” Yuen said in the circular. “It would also provide the requisite foundation for Hong Kong to re-start international travel, which is crucial for us to maintain Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center.”

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

The HKMA urged banks to follow the recent government’s 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% of Hong Kong residents have been fully inoculated, even though it’s one of the few places that offers shots for free to all adults, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker. That’s well below 40.7% in the U.S. and neighboring Singapore’s 28.3%.

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