Alcohol wipes and travel bans – how South Africa’s big banks are responding to the coronavirus

Thirteen South Africans have tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus, and over 100 people they have come into contact with have been placed under quarantine.

The numbers show the exponential risk of the virus spreading in the country, and the Department of Health has urged citizens, companies and all authorities to take the necessary precautions to limit potential exposure.

While government has not announced any plans to restrict movement or stop public gatherings, places of work or social gatherings are already implementing measures to reduce potential exposure to the virus.

This includes South Africa’s banks, where millions of customers make their way to branches to transact – often in close proximity, and interacting with bank employees.

BusinessTech asked the country’s leading banks what measures they have in place to protect customers and their employees from exposure to the coronavirus.


Capitec

Capitec Bank is known for its use of biometrics in-branch to conduct banking services. Some universities have already disabled their biometric systems to reduce potential exposure – however, Capitec said it is taking a different approach.

“We are in the process of issuing alcohol wipes to all branches and areas that use fingerprint biometrics. Safety is our top priority and the fingerprint reader will be sanitised each time after use by a client,” the group said.


Standard Bank

Standard Bank said it has a rigorous plan in place to ensure business continues in the event of a widespread outbreak in the country.

Employees have the ability to perform their duties at other locations and from home to ensure business and personal clients are seen to – and while branches remain open, the bank said it will follow World Health Organisation guidelines relating to cleanliness and hygiene practices.

It is encouraging workers (and customers) to use alcohol sanitisers and soap and water to keep clean, and to not touch their faces.

The most drastic move is a wide-ranging travel ban across the whole group.

“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,” it said.

“In Africa, people will only be allowed to travel on Standard Bank Group business if, and only if, specifically permitted to do so in writing by both the chief executive of our origin country business and the chief executive of our destination country business.

“There are no exceptions to this rule, and no escalations from the decision of the country chief executives. 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,” the bank said.


Nedbank

Nedbank is providing cleaning and disinfecting supplies to all offices and branches, and will also restrict travel.

“As a precaution, Nedbank is providing cleaning and disinfecting supplies to all our offices and branches and have deep cleaned and sanitised most of our high traffic operations in KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and Gauteng and have deployed cleaning professionals to our remaining regions,” said Nedbank chief risk officer, Trevor Adams.

“The deep cleaning and maintenance cleaning product is used in hospitals and in ICU. The deep clean kills pathogens or bacteria in the air and on surfaces and the building is safe for occupation 15-20 minutes after it has been applied and is also safe for pregnant women.

“We are increasing attention to the cleanliness of high-density areas and are conducting more frequent cleaning in common areas and on commonly touched surfaces including but not limited to door handles, lift buttons, taps, flushing handles, counter tops, mirrors, table tops.”

The following preventative measures have been implemented to date for staff :

  • Travel has been restricted to impacted countries and high-risk areas, and regional and domestic travel has been restricted to essential travel, the bank said. Tracking and monitoring of employees travelling in their personal capacity has also been implemented.

“The use of Skype, video and teleconferencing is encouraged and where employees need to have face to face meetings, they are encouraged to take precautionary measures by practicing good hygiene,” Adams said.


FNB

According to FNB chief risk officer, Lytania Johnson, the bank has put the necessary precautions in place with respect to staff mobility, visitors and vendors.

The bank has already adopted flexible working arrangements in most areas of its businesses and continues to reinforce the adoption of remote working arrangements.

“We have increased the frequency of cleaning our premises and also ensured that where relevant, our respective environments undergo deep-cleaning.

“Furthermore, most of our campuses are equipped with hand sanitisers, and this will be rolled out to our branches as a precautionary measure,” she said.

While the bank does not have operations in some of the highly affected countries, it said it is consistently reinforcing its travel policies in light of global developments.

“Similarly, we are monitoring developments in South Africa and other areas where we operate to identify potential risks and management thereof.”


Absa

Absasaid it has been tracking the spread of the virus and educating employees about precautionary measures at work and home.

“Although we expect supply constraints due to a spike in demand, we are securing additional sanitizer dispensers for all our sites,” it said

“We have also issued a travel advisory for the business where we’ve made it clear that all international business travel to high risk areas is prohibited.”

This also includes visits from clients and/or vendors coming directly from the high-risk countries.

“For international business travel to destinations classified as a medium risk, colleagues will require approval from Absa Group Exco.

“We do encourage colleagues who travel to affected regions to self-quarantine for a period of five days until they have been certified as uninfected,” it said.


Read: Over 100 people in South Africa under quarantine after being in contact with coronavirus patients

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Alcohol wipes and travel bans – how South Africa’s big banks are responding to the coronavirus