The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) and the Federation of Egyptian Banks (FEB) are taking steps to protect banks and customers from a second wave of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
In recent days, Egypt has seen resurgence in confirmed cases following a decline at the end of the summer season.
For its part, the CBE decided last week to extend exemptions for attendance at Board of Directors meetings at banks working in the Egyptian market until the end of 2021.
In a statement, the bank said that the step is a continuation of the efforts made to support banks given the current circumstances, and enable them to perform their duties optimally.
It comes as part of the CBE’s measures to reduce the repercussions of the coronavirus. In its session on 8 November 2020, the CBE’s Board of Directors decided to extend, until the end of December 2021, the period of exceptions stipulated in the instructions issued on 29 January 2019. This covers the holding of board meetings and the number of times participation can take place by phone or video.
These exceptions include the non-compliance with the maximum number of times a single Board member can participate by video or phone. It also eliminates the requirement for the majority of Board members to be physically present, while the remaining provisions of the instructions issued in this regard remain in effect.
This comes at a time when the FEB has developed a proposed guiding plan for business continuity at banks working in the Egyptian market to confront the coronavirus in the current period.
In a letter to the heads of Boards of Directors at banks, the federation said that its own Board of Directors is keen on the safety and stability of the Egyptian banking sector. It also looks to strengthen the precautionary measures taken by the state and the CBE.
It added that a plan has been set out for business continuity at banks to confront the coronavirus. This comes in addition to the letters from the Banks Union, dated 30 March and 5 April 2020, respectively, regarding the proposed guiding plan for business continuity at banks.
These letters also cover the continuous commitment to ensure the health and safety of banking sector employees, as well as customers, and applying responsible banking measures. The plan will be reviewed periodically according to the latest developments.
The plan will see current working hours remain in effect, whilst allowing up to 50% of employees to work from home. This will allow for a reduction in gatherings inside the workplace according to the nature of work, and without affecting its flow.
Each sector head of the bank will divide the employees into groups, with one group to work from the headquarters, and another to work from home after providing laptops and VPN.
They also include the following up on alternative premises in terms of equipping employees with the devices and equipment necessary for the departments to continue performing their work in cases of emergency stoppages. Moreover, strict instructions will be issued regarding the obligation to wear face masks inside the workplace and when using the bank’s buses.
The plan emphasises the need for all employees to follow all precautionary and preventive measures while using public or private means of transportation. In addition to putting an end to overcrowding, it also emphasises the prevention of any face-to-face meetings and replacing them with meetings via video conference.
The guideline plan will see instructions given on sterilising all surfaces using disinfectants containing alcohol, as well as the regular sterilisation of all workplaces over the weekend. This will require the provision of disinfectants in all places where workers and clients are present, and the periodic disinfection of all elevators.
The measures also include the conducting of immediate sterilisation when an infection is confirmed at one of the bank’s branches or at its administration facilities. It stressed that workers in buffets and janitors must wear face masks and gloves, in addition to replacing glass or metal tools with paper.
The FEB also emphasised the need for employees returning from abroad to take all necessary measures before returning to work, to ensure they are free of infection.
The FEB also urged banks to continue publishing awareness-raising videos and leaflets on the prevention of the coronavirus, as well as encouraging customers to use electronic payment methods.
It demanded that the distribution of all daily newspapers and magazines must stop while continuing to conduct body temperature checks with security officials at entrances. This will ensure that all employees and visitors will have their temperatures checked before entering branches, in addition to the control of waiting areas.
The instructions also include activating digital training activities for training to take place remotely. This comes in addition to providing communication channels with the bank’s medical service department throughout the day, whether by email or phone.
The FEB noted the importance of continuing to expand the contracting network with hospitals and laboratories nationwide. This will allow for the possibility of conducting tests inside employees’ residence to prevent the spread of infection.