HKMA encourages banks to support vaccination programme

The regulator outlined examples of supportive measures banks may consider.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority is encouraging financial institutions in the SAR to support the territory-wide Covid-19 vaccination programme for Hong Kong residents.

In a circular released yesterday, the HKMA said that banks perform a critical role in the economy, and is therefore important to ensure that they operate and provide banking services without interruption.

“For this reason, it is in the interest of authorised institutions to support the government’s vaccination drive and help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace and protect the health and safety of their staff and customers,” Arthur Yuen, HKMA’s deputy chief executive, said in the circular.

“Members of the public are encouraged to get vaccinated early so that Hong Kong can emerge from the effects of the pandemic as soon as possible,” he added.

The HKMA outlined examples of supportive measures banks may consider. They include allowing staff to get vaccinated during working hours or implementing flexible working hours to accommodate vaccination appointments, as well as granting staff time off work, where necessary, to rest after vaccination.

Banks are also recommended to disseminate information about the programme to staff and refer them to the government’s dedicated website for queries they may have in relation to the Covid-19 vaccines.

“Authorised institutions should monitor updates to the programme and related Covid-19 guidance issued by the government, and provide relevant information to their staff with a view to encouraging vaccine uptake,” Yuen said.

First rolled out in February, the vaccination pgramme was expanded last week to those aged 30-59, domestic helpers and students aged over 16 who study abroad.

As of 23 March, around 403,000 people have received their first dose of the vaccine, accounting for 5.4% of Hong Kong’s population, according to a report from the South China Morning Post.

However, the government yesterday suspended the vaccination programme for one of the vaccines offered in the SAR, the BioNTech shots, after it received a notification from Chinese distributor Fosun Pharma of defective packages in one batch of the doses.

“Fosun Pharma and BioNTech have initiated an investigation and promised to report to the Department of Health as early as possible. At this stage, suspension of BioNTech vaccination in Hong Kong will continue temporarily until the investigation is complete,” the government said in an announcement yesterday.