HSBC London Employee Hit By Virus, Sparks Partial Evacuation

An employee at HSBC Holdings Plc’s research department in Canary Wharf tested positive for coronavirus, prompting a partial evacuation and marking the first reported case at a major London bank office.

“The colleague is under medical supervision and has self-isolated,” HSBC said in a statement Thursday. “Based on medical and official advice, the building remains open and operates as normal.” Staff on the affected floor are being told to work from home, and the area is being deep-cleaned, the London-based bank said.

The statement didn’t specify what division of the bank was affected, but a person familiar with the matter said earlier that it was the research department, and that trading floor operations are continuing as normal. Dozens of people have been evacuated, the person said, requesting anonymity.

About 10,000 people work at the 8 Canada Square office. Banks in London have been testing their contingency plans in case wider evacuations are required. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is testing backup trading operations in the south London neighborhood of Croydon, while JPMorgan Chase & Co. is preparing for potential staff moves as far away as Basingstoke, 45 miles southwest of the British capital, Bloomberg News has reported.

Yesterday, U.K. government officials said the number of cases in the country jumped to 85 people. The bigger outbreak in Italy has already impacted Milan’s financial center, and UniCredit SpA has reported that some employees have caught the virus. First identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the coronavirus has claimed 3,200 lives and infected more than 94,000 people globally.

HSBC had already curbed international business travel by its employees. The London-based bank said such trips are only permitted “if absolutely essential to meet commitments to our clients or regulators, even between countries with no recorded cases,” according to an internal memo seen by Bloomberg that was confirmed by a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman.

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