Third wave of COVID-19 forces Hong Kong banks to close branches
HSBC, Standard Chartered and Bank of East Asia are among 11 banks changing their operating hours and closing some of their branches, as a third wave of COVID-19 forces Hong Kong to take containment measures.
The South China Morning Posts reports that the 11 lenders will partially or completely shut down operations at some 58 branches – about 5% of the city’s total – from 21 July.
The restrictions come as the latest outbreak pushed the number of infections in Hong Kong towards the 2,000 mark, forcing the government to order civil servants to work from home and ban dine-in services at restaurants after 6 pm.
HSBC, the biggest lender in the city, took the lead, announcing late on Sunday night that all branches will close an hour earlier, at 4 pm, from Mondays to Fridays.
HSBC, one of three note-issuing banks in the city, will suspend operations entirely at nine of its outlets – three mobile branches, retail branches at Hong Kong International Airport, To Kwa Wan, and Sha Tin, and business services centres in Kwun Tong, Sheung Shui and Sha Tin.
“This is a precautionary measure for contingency purposes of safeguarding the health and safety of our employees and customers in light of the rapidly evolving coronavirus situation in Hong Kong while balancing the need to ensure normal banking services to the community,” HSBC says in a statement.
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Other banks followed suit on 20 July, with Bank of East Asia, China Construction Bank (Asia) and CMB Wing Lung Bank all indicating their entire branch networks will close at 4 pm. DBS said its branches will close at 4.30 pm, and BEA said its ATM cheque deposit cut-off time would change to 4 pm.
Hang Seng Bank said it would close all its branches an hour earlier, at 4 pm.
Chiyu Banking Corporation is going even further, closing all branches at 3 pm on weekdays and noon on Saturdays.
Standard Chartered Bank, another note-issuing bank, will shorten its opening hours to 9.30 am to 4.30 pm, instead of the regular 9 am to 5 pm on weekdays, while on Saturday it will open from 9.30 am to noon.
Bank of China Hong Kong, also a note-issuer, is keeping its hours unchanged but will suspend the operations of 11 branches including the one at the airport and some in areas with high infection rates.
CMB Wing Lung will close eight branches from 21 July while DBS will shut one branch and suspend counter services at 11 more from 20 July.
ICBC Asia will close 11 branches from 21 July while other branches will close at 4 pm.
All of the banks announced the changes on their websites and urged customers to use mobile or digital banking.
Hong Kong, one of the most crowded banking cities worldwide, has endured a lot of disruption to its branch networks in the last year. Many branches had to halt operations during the initial coronavirus outbreak earlier this year and also during the height of the social unrest that rocked the city last year.