HK employees forced to WFH amid virus surge

The city has gone into lockdown as they battle their fourth wave of COVID-19 infections

HK employees forced to WFH amid virus surge

Just as Hong Kong was prepping to welcome tourists from Singapore, the city was reckoned with a new wave of COVID-19 infections and forced into lockdown.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced this week that civil servants would go back to working from home as the authorities ramped up efforts to contain the rising number of cases.

“Apart from providing emergency and essential public services, all civil servants will not need to come into the office,” Lam said in a press briefing. “They will be working from home.”

Read more: COVID-19: HR's role in managing the 'next wave' of infections

The move was part of the city’s toughest restrictions yet. The new rules went into effect Wednesday (Dec 2) and will last about two weeks – for now.

The public sector’s return to remote working arrangements will act as a signal for private companies to follow suit and maintain employee safety.

Other measures announced include school closures and a limit of public gatherings to only two people. The maximum penalty for violating social distancing measures will be HK$25,000 ($4,300) and imprisonment.

Restaurants can remain open but must close no later than 10pm. Gyms, sports venues and beauty parlours can remain open in consideration “for our citizens’ physical and mental health”. However, swimming pools and other entertainment venues will be forced to close, reported South China Morning Post.

Additionally, the outbreak has led to the indefinite postponement of the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble agreement. The countries will reassess the situation again in late December.

Read more: Singapore air travel bubble: How will it affect HR?

The latest surge has proven to be a ‘more transmissible’ COVID-19 in Hong Kong, according to a government health official. They found that one patient was likely to infect more than two people on average.

The findings coincide with a new compulsory COVID-19 testing law. Any person with flu-like symptoms must now comply with a testing notice or face a fine of HK$2,000 ($345). If that person continues to refuse to be tested, they can be fined HK$25,000 and jailed up to six months.

COVID-19 suspects are advised to stay at home and avoid going out when waiting for the test results.

The latest outbreak has been attributed to a spread at dance venues, which continues to see new cases daily.

Health authorities fear that the new wave will overburden healthcare facilities. The private hospital at the centre of the outbreak has been struggling to contain the ‘alarming’ spread of COVID-19, with staff members infected and an elderly patient dead after testing positive.

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