Thursday 5 March 2020 1:01 pm

HSBC evacuates over 100 from Canary Wharf HQ after employee contracts coronavirus

HSBC has evacuated more than 100 staff from one floor of its Canary Wharf headquarters after one of its research analysts contracted coronavirus.

City A.M. understands that an analyst in the bank’s research department tested positive for Covid-19 late last night, and informed the bank of his diagnosis this morning.  

Read more: City of London braces for coronavirus: banks, insurers and audit firms activate contingency plans

HSBC evacuated the entire 10th floor of its London headquarters, which houses divisions including its research department, in response.

The floor is undergoing a deep clean and in excess of 100 staff who work on the floor or came into contact with the infected employee have been asked to work from home. 

City A.M. understands that the employee who tested positive had recently traveled abroad. 

HSBC employs around 40,000 people in the UK, a quarter of whom are based in its 45-floor Canary Wharf skyscraper. 

A spokesperson for the bank confirmed that one of its employees based at its Canary Wharf headquarters had been diagnosed with Covid-19.

“This colleague is under medical supervision and has self-isolated. We are working closely with the health authorities. We are deep-cleaning the floor where our colleague worked and shared areas of the building,” they said.

The spokesperson said that those working on the affected floor and colleagues who had come into contact with the analyst had been advised to work from home, but that its headquarters remained open on official and medical advice.

“Our first priority and concern is the health of our employees and customers – and we are encouraging our colleagues to monitor their health carefully and stay at home or call a doctor if they feel unwell.”

The HSBC coronavirus case, news of which was first reported by Financial News, marks the first confirmed instance of coronavirus at a major financial institution in London.

Read more: Coronavirus: FTSE 100 falls lower amid investor concerns about global growth

Some 90 people in the UK have tested positive for Covid-19, and UK health officials are moving towards the second phase of their response to the outbreak. 

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty told MPs this morning that the so-called delay phase measures would be stepped up in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. 

Whitty also said it was “highly likely” that some people in the UK are now being infected with coronavirus without any connection to overseas cases.

Global banks have also been introducing restrictions on meetings and cutting down on business trips in response to the outbreak, which has now spread to 70 countries and killed over 3,000 people.  

The European Central Bank has asked eurozone banks to urgently test their large-scale remote working arrangements, or other flexible working arrangements for critical staff, Reuters reported.

In a leaked letter dated Tuesday, the ECB also asked banks to establish measures for infection control in the workplace and review their business 

Goldman Sachs and Citigroup have both advised against international staff travel in a bid to limit the spread of the virus. 

Earlier this week, it was reported that JP Morgan had asked thousands of US staff to work from home to test its contingency measures.

Goldman has recently sent staff from its trading division to test a backup trading facility in Croydon, while JP Morgan has established a virus recovery site in Basingstoke. 

Businesses across the City are bracing for the impact of the epidemic and putting contingency plans in place in case of a widespread outbreak in the UK. 

Yesterday, an employee of professional services firm Deloitte in London tested positive for coronavirus. All staff on the affected floor were asked to leave the office with immediate effect. 

Read more: Coronavirus: Two more Scotland cases confirmed as UK total hits 90

Oil company Chevron and law firm Baker McKenzie last week sent home staff from their London offices over fears an employee had contracted coronavirus, but both cases have proved to be false alarms. 

Global firms including Google, Amazon, Apple and BP have all introduced bans or restrictions on staff travel in response to the outbreak.