With the coronavirus pandemic raging on in Hong Kong, businesses are adapting to the situation by cutting operating hours and asking staff to work from home. While restaurants have been disproportionately affected by the city’s most stringent social distancing measures since the pandemic began two years ago, property brokerages have not been spared either. Full Mark Property Agency has temporarily closed all its branches for the first time in its 31-year history. It has asked its 30-strong team to work from home until further notice since Monday. Although the company has seen a 20 per cent decline in business in recent weeks owing to the pandemic, the decision has been made mainly to protect the health and safety of staff, a Full Mark spokeswoman said. “This is our first time to work from home, but if any staff member needs to work at the office, they can still go there,” she said. Full Mark has 12 teams spread across five branches in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is currently battling the more transmissible strain of Omicron. On Tuesday, the city recorded 30,493 coronavirus cases and 291 deaths, which included backlogged ones. The city has logged some 500,000 cases and over 2,280 deaths so far. On Monday, the Securities and Futures Commission urged Hong Kong businesses to prepare for compulsory universal Covid-19 testing, an event that is likely to affect their operations. Meanwhile, some property agencies like Midland Realty were still allowing employees to come to their offices. Only support staff were currently working from home, said Sammy Po Siu-ming, the chief executive of Midland’s residential division. Hong Kong’s property brokerages have been largely unaffected by an economic slowdown that saw the city’s unemployment rate hit a record high of 7.2 per cent in February 2020 at the start of the pandemic. Many employees laid off by Cathay Pacific have been hired by property agencies and insurers owing to their experience in customer service and hospitality. As of February, the total number of listed agents in Hong Kong reached a record high of 42,408, rising for nine consecutive months, according to the latest data from the Estate Agents Authority. However, the fifth wave of the coronavirus outbreak has led to a steep decline in property transactions, while the city’s leading developers have delayed new project launches. Some 3,992 deals for residential, commercial and industrial real estate as well as parking spaces were conducted in February, the lowest since 3,776 deals in January 2020, according to data compiled by Centaline Property Agency. The total value of the transactions plummeted 32.5 per cent to a 23-month low of HK$36.71 billion (US$4.70 billion). “Property sales in March will definitely be fewer than those in January and February, as most people are concerned about their health and what to do if they become infected with Covid-19,” said Victor Lai Kin-fai, managing director of Centaline Surveyors.