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Saturday, Sep 19, 2020

China coronavirus: some Hong Kong banks closing branches as a public safety measure

CMB Wing Lung Bank is curtailing service hours at its 33 branches. HSBC is ‘reviewing our current arrangements’ at its 100 Hong Kong branches

The scare over the contagious China coronavirus has spread to the Hong Kong banking sector, with several banks closing branches or shortening service hours in the name of public health.

More banks, including the giant HSBC and its subsidiary Hang Seng Bank, are considering adjusting their branch services after Hong Kong’s new total of confirmed coronavirus cases reached 12 early Friday morning.

Banks were also urging their customers to turn to online banking services.

Starting Friday, CMB Wing Lung Bank, which operates 33 branches in Hong Kong, will close them at 3pm instead of 5pm on weekdays; some branches will be closed on Saturdays.

Starting Thursday, Bank of Communications will temporarily close eight branches – in Tsuen Wan, Tai Koo Shing, Shau Kee Wan, Tiu Keng Leng, Cheung Sha Wan and Tuen Mun – until further notice.

As a result of the temporary closure of the West Kowloon terminus from Thursday, the CMB Wing Lung Bank branch and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China’s wealth centre have been forced to shut as well indefinitely.

A spokeswoman for HSBC, which is one of Hong Kong’s three bank note issuers, said it was considering adjusting services for all of its 100 branches in the city.

“HSBC is committed to sustaining normal banking services to the community, while taking suitable precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of its employees and customers in light of the rapidly evolving coronavirus situation in Hong Kong,” she said. “We are reviewing our current arrangements and will provide further updates shortly.”

Hang Seng Bank, with 77 branches, said through a spokeswoman: “We are considering our branch arrangements and will provide any update accordingly.”

The city’s de facto central bank, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

As of 8pm on Thursday, the number of confirmed cases globally of the coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, Hubei province, had reached almost 8,000 – nearing the total infections worldwide in the Sars outbreak of 2002-03.

The Hong Kong government has moved to cut cross-border travel starting Thursday by closing six of the city’s 15 border checkpoints and suspending travel visas for individuals coming from the mainland. Cross-border transport services will also be reduced, while enhanced health declaration requirements will be imposed on incoming travellers.

Post services and public leisure activities have been suspended while school holidays are extended, and many office workers in the private sector are working from home this week.

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