With the introduction of an increasing number of protocols to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, major private sector banks are clamping down on retail offerings, including by stopping foreign currency deposits by NRIs over fears that transmission could occur via such notes.
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Speaking to The Hindu , a HDFC Bank official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that after an audit call on Friday, there has been an internal advisory to temporarily halt foreign currency deposits at retail branches across the country, because “people have realised that it is very difficult to track where currencies have been.”
One customer said told that he had to retain the currency he had hoped to deposit, instead, issuing a cheque and seeking his relationship manager’s help to get the same deposited at a city branch.
So far it appears that no measures have been taken to prevent NRI customers themselves from using banking services, despite questions about the risk of the COVID-19 passing from the notes to the bearer of the currencies.
Nevertheless, private sector banks across States have, since last week, instituted hygiene and sanitation protocols at the branch level, including ensuring that all customers and officials use hand sanitisers vigorously before entering the branch — this is enforced by a security personnel at the entrance — and also the use of masks by all cashiers and others in customer-facing roles.
Both, at HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank, rotation of staff in shifts to minimise social contact in the work environment has been put in place and been in force for several days now.
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An ICICI Bank official added that while most customers were being encouraged to use online facilities and avoid entering branches, it was ironically the senior citizens, without any easy access to net banking, who were found to be using branch services. The virus has, so far, proven to be far deadlier, in terms of fatality rate, for old demographic cohorts.
While some of the private sector banks have, so far, categorised cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Hyderabad as ‘red-alert’ areas from the point of view of infection risk, Chennai does not yet appear to have been labelled as such.