By Selena Li
HONG KONG (Reuters) – A leading lobby group for global financial services firms has urged Shanghai authorities to let hundreds of exhausted staff go home after a month-long strict COVID-19 lockdown that has kept them in office buildings.
The Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (ASIFMA) in a letter dated April 26 urged the authorities to let financial firms rotate staff who need to work from offices.
More than 20,000 bankers, traders and other workers had to bed down in office towers in Shanghai’s Lujiazui district as they sought to keep China’s giant financial hub running during the lockdown.
Employees bedding down in offices were given air mattresses, pillows and blankets, and were relying on limited facilities.
They have not been able to step outside since March 28, when Shanghai started imposing lockdown curbs on areas east of its Huangpu river, according to a post from the district government’s official WeChat account.
“Currently, there are hundreds of employees from financial services firms who have been trapped in their office buildings for several weeks and separated from their families,” said the ASIFMA letter, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters.
“Not knowing how long this outbreak will last, or if future outbreaks might lead to additional lockdowns, we seek solutions for rotational support to help build a sustainable model and to promote stability of the financial markets.”
ASIFMA declined to comment. The Shanghai government did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
Many of ASIFMA’s 52 banks and other members from the financial sector have operations and sizable staff in the financial hub of Shanghai.
The current regulations require financial firms in Shanghai to keep a minimum staff presence on location to maintain trading operations, ASIFMA said, which was the reason why financial workers had to hunker down in offices.
ASIFMA joins other international business groups, including the European Union Chamber of Commerce, who have urged China to revise its policies and allow home quarantine for some COVID patients.
Finance sector professionals in Shanghai are preparing to move back to Hong Kong and other offshore centres after spending only a few years in the Chinese city as the harsh lockdown has hurt business prospects and upended daily lives.
(Reporting by Selena Li; additional reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Chizu Nomiyama)