Hong Kong government staff who are not essential anti-epidemic workers could begin working from home as soon as Thursday, according to local media reports, as the Covid-19 Omicron variant spreads in the community.

Citing a Civil Service Bureau memo sent to departments, Ming Pao reported that departments were told they could let employees work from home between Thursday and February 4, depending on operational needs.

Civil Servants going to work at the Central Government Offices. File photo: GovHK.

Heads of bureaus and departments were notified that they could begin making arrangements for civil servants to work from home as long as it would not interfere with their ability to do their jobs, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said during a press briefing on Tuesday morning.

The city has recorded a total of 42 locally transmitted Omicron cases as of Tuesday, as health authorities warned that there could be undetected local transmissions of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant in Tuen Mun. Thousands of residents in the area waited for up to six hours in queues outside mobile testing stations on Tuesday evening after being issued mandatory testing notices, Commercial Radio reported.

Flexible hours

The Civil Service Bureau memo said government staff could be split into teams and work from home or in the office on alternate rotas. Those who are involved in the government’s anti-epidemic work, however, will be exempt. Workers could also adopt more flexible hours, and those required to work from the office would be allowed to adjust their lunchtime and what time they start and end their working day to avoid crowds during peak hours.

Meanwhile, those with specific health conditions such as pregnancy or long-term illnesses were permitted to begin working from home, the memo read.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam meeting the press on December 7, 2021. File Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Civil servants can also apply for up to 12 days’ leave if they are quarantined or if they need to shoulder additional family responsibilities while schools are shut, Now TV reported.

In total, the city has reported 12,980 infections and 213 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.