In a drill that may yet be played out in London and New York, a bank has closed a floor of its offices after an employee tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Singapore Bank DBS issued a statement this morning saying that one employee tested positive for the virus yesterday and that as a precautionary measure other staff were asked to vacate the third floor of its offices and work from home from 12pm. The Straits Times in Singapore originally reported the case.
DBS said it's conducting detailed contract tracing with people who came into contact with the infected employee and is deep cleaning the affected office space and common areas like lifts and toilets.
Staff are being given a 'personal hygiene and protection Care Pack,' including masks, a thermometer, hand sanitiser and vitamin C. The bank is aso rolling out webinars for medical health professionals to update employees on the latest developments on COVID-19 and to answer their medical concerns.
DBS says it's also implemented: temperature screening at all office buildings; widespread availability of hand sanitisers; health and travel declarations for everyone entering the building; the provision of face masks to all front line employees.
The move in Singapore comes as banks in London and New York are dusting down pandemic preparedness plans which were last tested over a decade ago. Brighton in the UK has experienced a cluster of infections with the closure of several local medical surgeries. The city is around an hour away from London.
One managing director in M&A in London said they were issued with guidelines on the virus only yesterday. "It's all very obvious stuff," he said. "Postpone business trips to China and Hong Kong and have two weeks working from home if you return from either place. Go and see a GP if you don't feel well."
He added that he's not at the stage of cancelling short haul business trips yet and that the bank's response appeared proportionate. "I'm not sure there's much more they can do at the moment and its too soon to ask people to work from home - though in fact most of the building have that capability should it come to that, which I doubt it will."
In a 2006 report on pandemic flu in the finance sector, the Financial Stability Forum cautioned against a situation where, 'a few cases of flu in a central business district could lead to quarantining of the entire staff of the building where a financial institution is located, accompanied by quarantining of the affected office space and equipment, for a period of several days.'
Working from home might not be so bad. In Hong Kong, employees at Hang Seng Bank who've been sent home because of the virus have been posting photos of themselves having fun hiking, with taglines like 'men in the wilderness' and 'work from home activity.'
Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash
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