SBP directs banks to operate branches with minimum staff during fight against coronavirus

KARACHI: State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Monday directed all banks to operate their branches with bare minimum staff during measures taken by the authorities to fight against coronavirus.

The SBP said that all branches/ work places will remain open, throughout Pakistan with bare minimum staff for ensuring the continuity of essential banking services. Under this arrangement, from March 24, 2020, branches/ work places will open (from Monday to Friday) at 10:00 am and close at 4:30 pm till further instructions by SBP.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has emerged as a pandemic and threat to the global economy. The whole world has taken a number of steps to contain the menace of this virus and Pakistan, too, is a part of this global fight. State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) is constantly evaluating the situation and implementing a number of measures to ensure the continuity of banking services during these difficult times.

In this context, banking industry was advised vide BPRD’s email of March 22, 2020, to devise a mechanism for provision of essential banking services by at least, focusing on certain critical areas. Now, to bring further clarity and smoothening of operational modalities, banks, DFIs and MFBs are further advised and reiterated that:

In case of identification of any COVID – 19 case in branch/ work premises or unforeseen event or untoward happening or any other emergency situation, branches/ work places may be temporarily closed/ relocated under intimation to SBP.

Ensure uninterrupted availability of all ATM services, digital and alternate delivery channels for facilitation of customers. Further, be vigilant and take measures to proactively mitigate cyber security risks associated with these channels.

RTGS and all call centers will remain functional. Moreover, to facilitate trade related businesses, Trade Hubs of banks in all major cities will remain operational though with bare minimum staff.

Critical staff will carry their Original CNIC & Service Card at all times with them. However, if due to any reason, critical staff do not currently have their Original CNIC & Service Card with them, then to facilitate their movement to work places, a letter certifying their employment may be issued by their respective institutions. A similar arrangement may also be followed for those companies who provide cash collection and delivery services.

The guidelines issued by World Health Organization, the Government of Pakistan and the Provincial Governments shall be implemented, in letter and spirit, to ensure the safety and health of employees & customers and cleanliness at the workplace.

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