SLBC urges Bengal govt to restrict banking hours up to 2 pm amid soaring COVID cases

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Kolkata, Apr 23 (PTI) State Level Bankers' Committee has appealed to the West Bengal government to restrict business hours from 10 am to 2 pm for at least two weeks, amid a raging second wave of the COVID19 pandemic, an official said on Friday.

Currently, banks provide services from 10 am to 4 pm daily, except holidays and the second and fourth Saturday of a month.

Many of the member banks have already been advised by their corporate offices to take stock of the COVID situation in their respective working zones and consider restricting attendance up to 50 per cent in their branches and offices, Nabin Kumar Dash chief general manager of Punjab National Bank and convenor of the SLBC said in a letter to the government.

'Many banks have approached us for imposition of restricted banking hours, as was implemented last year to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection. Ensuring 50 per cent workforce availability itself is a challenging task in the present situation given a large number of infected staff and their family members,' he said in the letter sent to the government on April 20.

Full-fledged banking services for six hours will be a 'daunting task' in the present COVID situation, he said.

'We would urge you to take a considered view to restrict banking business hours from 10 am to 2 pm at least for next two weeks, which may be reviewed for continuation or otherwise,' Dash said.

He said the overall COVID situation at the ground level is alarming compared to the first wave of the pandemic.

'We have also sent another letter to the West Bengal government today. What we have gathered is that the state administration is actively considering our request,' the SLBC convenor told PTI.

Meanwhile, All India Bank Officers' Confederations West Bengal unit has also written a letter to Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, requesting him to ask the appropriate authority to reduce the banking up to 2 pm, and implement closure of bank branches on all Saturdays in view of the current pandemic situation.

'Several states have already implemented all Saturdays off and reduced banking operations up to 2 pm to combat the second wave of the coronavirus infections. We have requested the West Bengal governor to ask the appropriate authority to consider our request,' AIBOC state unit secretary Sanjay Das said.

West Bengal on Thursday registered the highest single-day spike of 11,948 COVID-19 cases, taking the tally beyond the 7-lakh mark, the health department said in its bulletin.

The fresh infections pushed the state's coronavirus caseload to 7,00,904.

The death toll also went up to 10,766 as 56 more patients succumbed to the disease, it said.