SCMP shuts offices after reporter tests positive

Top News | Jane Cheung 19 Mar 2020

The South China Morning Post has closed its offices after a freelance reporter tested positive for Covid-19 - the first local media to fall victim to the virus.

Staff have started working from home as operations continue after the newspaper closed its offices at Times Square in Causeway Bay and South Island Place in Wong Chuk Hang for disinfection.

The offices will be closed "for the remainder of this week, with the possibility of extension," an e-mail to staff stated.

The 24-year-old female reporter for Young Post, who was in London from February 27 to March 8, worked in the Causeway Bay office between Tuesday and Friday last week and again on Monday before being diagnosed with the infection.

She used the office's social hub and visited its internal bar The Black Kite during happy hour on Friday, the e-mail said.

The office remained open from morning to noon yesterday as staff picked up equipment to work from home. But sources said most staff - locals and expats - did not wear masks in the office.

The company previously adopted work-from-home arrangements for a month after the Lunar New Year holiday in late January amid the initial outbreak in Hong Kong.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po attended a budget forum at the company's office on the 19th floor at Times Square on Wednesday last week.

A spokesman for Chan's office said the infected freelancer did not attend the forum and had not worked on the 19th floor. It is believed Chan did not come into contact with the reporter.

The spokesman said Chan is healthy and will not be placed under medical surveillance. The Post moved its headquarters to Times Square in early 2018 after being based at Leighton Road for around 10 years.

The move came after it was purchased by mainland e-commerce giant Alibaba Group from Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok Hock-nien in 2015.

The Times Square office stretches from the 18th to the 22nd floors while the 31st floor houses staff for its newsroom and magazines department, with themed social hubs such as The Black Kite bar, a cafe, a game arcade and a club for table tennis on each floor.

Meanwhile, Yuen Long district councillor Johnny Mak Ip-sing was sent to a quarantine center after his son tested positive for Covid-19 following their European trip.

Despite returning to Hong Kong seven days before his son did on Tuesday, Mak said he was listed as a close contact and was sent to an isolation camp yesterday.

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