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COVID-19 Nigeria- Palpable concern as cases in Nigeria’s financial capital continues to climb and banks shut branches

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THUR, MARCH 26 2020-theG&BJournal- All the banks in the country have announced strict coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic response measures in their banking halls. They have now followed that up with the shutdown of some of their branches nationwide as well as offering skeletal services, particularly in Lagos.

‘’I believe this is going to create serious problems for families. At the same time it is the wisest thing to do in this circumstance,’’ says one Ugochukwu Clement who was seen Thursday by our reporter in a banking hall in Lagos.

The development shows how the financial sector is been greatly influenced by the coronavirus. Other sectors similarly reliant on daily banking transactions are increasingly experiencing difficulties as banks limit their operations and interactions with customers.

It is estimated that about half the banking sector staff is already working remotely. One banker in one of the biggest banks in the country told theG&BJournal in Lagos that she foresees a complete shut down if the spread of the disease continues to escalate at the rate it is now.

‘’In my bank, I am not sure how this rotational closing will work out. For now if a bank branch closes, the one nearest to it opens. Besides, in some branches, we have more than 20 staff. I am not sure how social distancing will work also under the circumstance,’’ she said. ‘’It is not in our interest to continue to open because the spread is getting rampant.’’

Internal memo from one of the banks in Lagos seen by theG&BJournal, tells even some of senior staff to go home for 2 weeks starting Monday March 30 2020, suggesting that the banks are preparing for total shutdown if the spread of the disease persists at this rate.

‘’I think we don’t have to wait for it to became a huge problem linked to our banking halls before we do the right. Let all the banks close for a week as a trial run, see what happens before we decide on the next step,’’ another bank staff said.

Currently, most of the banks are not allowing more than two customers into the banking hall at a time and the ATM machines are experiencing a run as citizens anticipate an eventual total shutdown of the city.

TheG&BJournal understands that clear instructions have not been given by some of the banks on how cash loading into ATMs in the closed banks will work out. They are not sure if the ATMs will be functional only in branches that are open, suggesting a harsh time for ATM users in the country in the coming days.

In total, Lagos at 32 confirmed cases leads in terms of the disease area of concentration followed by 10 in FCT, 3 in Ogun State while Ekiti, Oyo, Edo, Bauchi, Osun and Rivers have one case each.

Five new cases were confirmed in the country Wednesday to take the total to 51 cases. 48 cases are described as active. 2 of the patients have been discharged and death toll is 1, according the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

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