by WELLINGTON TONI
HARARE, (ITNews Zimbabwe) – SOME banks and a mobile network operator have shut their branches as digital transactions take centre stage in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Zimbabwe.
The move, which discourages the use of cash transactions, also complements an ongoing 21-day lockdown enforced by government to curb transmissions.
Since the Southern African country reported its first COVID-19 case on March 20, advice has largely been limited to hygiene issues such as sanitising, washing hands with soap under running water regularly, as well as social distancing, avoiding contact with suspected infected persons and self-isolation.
Now, financial institutions have handed down their own restrictions, shutting down several branches across the country and discouraging the use of notes and coins in daily transactions.
Econet-owned Steward Bank is leading the way.
Several of its branches, including in the capital Harare and Victoria Falls, the tourism hub where the first outbreak was reported, have been shut down to help in the fight against the virus.
FBC Bank also shut down its branches in the leafy suburb of Borrowdale in Harare and the Robert Mugabe International Airport, also in the city, as well as another in Victoria Falls.
It warned of service disruptions.
“We have taken heed of the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended guidelines with regards to workplace behavior and have implemented the practice of social distancing and minimization of personal contact across all group wide business units,” FCB stated.
“Consequently, we have allowed some of our staff members to work from home while ensuring that critical sections and functions across the FBC Group remain operational during this time.”
The bank has adopted telephone and online enabled meetings which completely do away with the need for physical contact.
“As a result of these actions, there may be some disruption to our normal service delivery,” a statement by FCB read.
It encouraged people to minimise the use of cash and resort to digital banking services, automated teller machines (ATMs) and point of sale (PoS) machines.
The National Building Society (NBS) has shut down its headquarters in Harare.
It has launched a mobile application to encourage use of plastic money.
NetOne, the government-owned mobile service provider has closed its branches in Harare, Victoria Falls and the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in the second capital, Bulawayo.
Other branches of the operator have been closed in Hwange and Gwanda as well as another at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF).
ZITF, which was scheduled for Bulawayo, has been cancelled amid the COVID-19 threat.
Zimbabwe has confirmed eight cases of the virus. One person has died. On Monday, the country went on a lockdown to minimize the spread of the virus that was first reported in China at the end of 2019.