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Banks close branches over Covid-19

Stanbic Bank and First Capital Bank have closed some of their branches as the financial institutions intensify efforts to help contain the spread of coronavirus in the country.

The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday that annualised inflation in Zimbabwe hit almost 300 percent in August [File: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters]
People queue to withdraw cash from a bank in Harare [File: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters]
This comes as ZB also announced plans yesterday to close some of its branches over the same reasons.

Some financial institutions — as part of measures to contain the disease — have also started rejecting all hard copy transactions, advising their customers to make all their payments through online platforms that eliminate human interface.

Said First Capital in a notice to customers: “To protect clients and staff from the spread of Covid 19, we are reducing our branch network by temporarily closing Belmont (Bulawayo) Borrowdale, Harare Street and First Street branches (all in Harare) from the 24th of March.”

ZB Financial Holdings chief executive officer Ron Mutandagayi, said the banking group has started sending some of its employees’ home, while at the same time discouraging customers to come to the branches.

“I think as customers stop coming to the branches, then we will also reduce branches that are available but also being mindful that some of our customers are not on digital channels like your schools and government departments. We will make sure those get the services that they need but also making sure our front office stuff has protective clothing,” said Mr Mutandagayi.

In a statement, Stanbic said communication had been sent to customers advising of the temporary closure of the institution’s Victoria Falls and Hwange branches.

Last week, the bank also advised of the temporary closure of its Incubator Hub as a measure to support the effective practice of social distancing, which comes as a recommended preventative measure by the World Health Organisation.

The head of marketing and corporate affairs of Stanbic Bank, Palmer Mugavha, said the two branches and the Incubator Hub were closed as the institution puts “human life ahead of profit” in the ongoing fight against the Covid-19 outbreak, which has been declared a global pandemic.

Mr Mugavha said Stanbic Bank upholds one of its core values of being proactive and saw it to be in the interest of public safety for them to close the two branches in view of the recent reported Covid-19 cases in Zimbabwe.

“One of the biggest lessons we have learnt form the outbreak is that people need to be proactive rather than reactive. Some countries have been hit hardest because they took time to act so we saw it fit to support our country in the preventive strategies being taken following the President’s national disaster declaration”, said Mr Mugavha.

Zimbabwe’s first case of Covid-19 commonly referred to as coronavirus was reported in the resort town of Victoria Falls in the previous week and other cases have since been reported.

“Given that the first case in Zimbabwe was reported in Victoria Falls and bearing in mind that a stitch in time saves nine — we did not hesitate to put the well-being of our employees, clients and the general public at the fore. We have to put human life ahead of any potential to earn profit hence the decision to close Victoria Falls and Hwange branches,” said Mr Mugavha.

“We understand the impact our decision has on our customers and sincerely regret the inconvenience. However, we request that they bear with us and continue to use digital banking platforms to minimise physical human interaction as we fight to curb the spread of this deadly virus”, he added.

The financial institution has made it mandatory for every customer who visits their branches or offices to sanitise their hands upon entering and exiting the premises using the sanitising sprays and wipes, which have been vastly availed in the banking halls and offices.

“We can never be too careful, we urge all customers to cooperate with us as we fight this pandemic together”, Mr Mugavha said.

In a statement issued by the group’s head office in Johannesburg, Standard Bank is implementing its rigorous Business Continuity processes and practices, which are well rehearsed and planned on a regular basis.

The group said all its plans are designed to ensure effective business continuity, the integrity of its systems and processes and the safety and well-being of its staff and customers.

Part of this plan would be to ensure the ability of our employees to fulfil their duties at other locations where the group operates or from home depending on business and personal requirements.

“Standard Bank has also issued a wide-ranging travel ban. In order to reduce risk to its staff and communities, we have taken the decision to suspend all cross-border travel on Standard Bank Group business until further notice. Only very limited exceptions to this rule will be permitted,” the statement said.

“This has been a difficult decision, and we are aware of the impact it will have. However, we are confident that this is the right decision in light of this global health threat,” said the statement.

Standard Bank adopted the principles recommended by the World Health Organisation and advised staff and contractors who return from high risk destinations to adopt the fourteen-day self-isolation principle. The high-risk destination lists are reviewed daily to remain relevant.

In the course of business, Standard Bank adopts a strict policy as it relates to the cleanliness of its branches and public spaces. Where appropriate, Standard Bank reviewed systems and processes to align to World Health Organisation and Ministry of Health and Child care guidelines to minimise the risk of potential infection.

The statement said the group’s employees are being provided with the necessary tools and information to minimise risk and provide its customers with the assurance that it is applying the necessary precautionary measures to deal with the potential risk.

These include encouraging employees (and customers) to use alcohol sanitisers and soap and water to keep clean, and to not touch their faces. The Herald

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