Although banks remain open on a limited scale during the ongoing 10-day general holiday declared by the government, officials and employees of different banks have not yet been provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) for wearing while on duty, exposing them to the risk of getting infected by coronavirus.
Though the Bangladesh Bank directed for providing PPE to bank officials, the authorities of many banks have not yet taken any initiative in this regard.Talking to the UNB correspondent, a number of bank officials and employees and their family members expressed concerns over the matter.
Senior Principal Officer of Sonali Bank Ltd Ruhul Haque said, “We continue our work as per the government’s directive and we’ll do it but we’re not safe at the workplace. We don’t have necessary protective equipment to protect us from coronavirus.”
“We don’t know whether customers coming to the bank to receive services are free from coronavirus or not. We’re doing our office wearing regular attires. Some of us are using masks while others not which poses the risk of spreading the virus. That’s why it’s the responsibility of the authorities concerned to provide us with protective equipment,” he said.
hough the central bank issued a circular, directing authorities concerned to provide PPE, they have not yet received any PPE, said Ruhul.
Meanwhile, some officials, especially those work in the cash section, have collected PPE at their own initiative to protect them, he said.
Nazmul Haque Sattar, principal officer at an Agrani Bank Ltd branch, said, “Most of the customers are not using any mask in rural areas. Though we’re wearing masks, it’s not enough for our protection. Panic has gripped us but we’re still performing our duties.”
He said bank authorities have not yet provided any PPE and they are taking measures for personal safety at their own cost. “Our families are also passing days amid anxiety as we might get infected with the virus anytime.”Wishing anonymity, a junior officer at a private bank said they are very worried. “Though we’re working, we’re in a constant fear. If we ask any customer to maintain distance, s/she picks a quarrel with us.”
Jannatul Nayeem, family member of a government bank official, said the government declared holidays for private and government service-holders keeping bank services open. “We’ve no objection to that but we’re concerned about the safety of our family members as no PPE has yet been provided to the officials and employees by the bank authorities.”
She urged the government and bank authorities to provide them with PPE immediately.
Contacted, Sirajul Islam, executive director of the Bangladesh Bank and its spokesperson, said the central bank issued a circular before the government’s decision over keeping banks open and according to the circular, all the bank staff have to perform their duties after ensuring protection from coronavirus contamination.
“No bank will be allowed to neglect the issue and bank authorities have been asked to provide PPE at their own costs,” he said.
Replying to a query about the absence of safety measures for bank officials, Sirajul said action will be taken against the bank authorities concerned if evidence is found in this regard.
On March 23, the government declared general holidays from March 26 to April 4, aiming to prevent the transmission of deadly coronavirus.
But kitchen markets, food shops, pharmacies, hospitals and all emergency services remain out of the purview of the general holidays.
Besides, banks also remain open to facilitate the financial transaction for their clients.
Banks keep their operation on from 10am to 1:30pm during holidays. However, financial transaction can be made from 10am to 12 noon.
Bangladesh has so far reported five deaths from the coronavirus.
The death toll from novel coronavirus (COVID-19) reached 27,359 globally on Saturday morning.
It has so far infected 597,185 people around the world, according to worldometer.