by Charmaine Ngatjiheue 

BUSINESS and finance communities have stepped up measures to mitigate and protect their staff and customers against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) that has become a global pandemic.

Globally, the coronavirus cases are reported at 221 579, with deaths at 8 999, while 85 785 people have recovered.

In a statement, Trustco Group Holdings’ spokesperson, Neville Basson, said the company has banned international business travel for all its employees as a coronavirus preventative measure.

Other measures include mandatory seasonal flu vaccines for all staff and relaxation of the sick leave policy of the group to ensure that compliance with the policy does not expose clients or other employees to any potential infection.

“Last week, with an increase in infections globally, this policy was expanded to also include fever scanners and hand sanitisers at all corporate entrances of the group as an additional precaution, with measures being put in place to ensure business continuity should the situation warrant it.

“With the president’s announcement on Saturday 14 March, the group instituted additional measures,  allowing employees who care for children and the elderly as well as employees already set up to work remotely, to remain at home with full pay,” he said.

Additionally, staff members who are not crucial to client services or intra-group essentials were requested and required to work from home, with the remaining staff rotating where possible. 

“This process is managed via a special corona leave entitlement, to avoid exhausting the annual or sick leave entitlement of an employee when it may be needed more at a later stage,” Basson added.

Standard Bank chief executive officer Vetumbuavi Mungunda said they are engaging other private sector players through the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry to mobilise and coordinate their efforts and support in the fight against the further spread of the virus. 

He added that some of the measures they set up include suspending all cross-border travel, instituting the ‘work from home’ provision, increasing the regularity of sanitising their facilities and public spaces and whenever possible, ensuring meetings with external parties are digital. 

“Given the risks of infection attached to public spaces, we urge clients to minimise physical meetings and visits to branches and to rather make use of our ‘cash-less’ digital channels such as internet banking, the Standard Bank App, mobile banking and PayPulse,” the chief executive officer said.

Bank Windhoek has postponed all its sponsored events for 30 days, a move it believes would contribute towards reducing the number of mass gatherings and, thus, help reduce any opportunity for the spread of the virus. 

The bank has provided additional disinfectants, including hand sanitisers and additional cleaning of ATMs, Point of Sale devices and other surfaces that are human contact points at all its branches and departments. 

The bank is also installing bulk disinfectant dispensers at key points where staff and clients would be required to make use of them.  

“The situation is unprecedented, but the measures that have been put in place seem to be effective at the moment. The situation is being monitored very closely and our focus is on the health and well-being of staff and our customers,” Baronice Hans, Bank Windhoek’s managing director, said.

The bank remains open but clients are encouraged to use electronic service channels. 

Nedbank Namibia communications manager Gernot de Klerk said with the outbreak of the coronavirus and Namibia confirming two cases, it has become imperative for clients to transact at any time of their choice, hence transacting digitally. 

“Considering that social distancing has been proven to be one of the most effective measures to contain the novel coronavirus spread, we do wish to guide our clients that our digital transactional channels are excellent alternatives to actual branch visits. Our platforms provide convenient alternatives and allow you to bank any time, anywhere managing your accounts, cards and even applying for new products,” he said.

He said Nedbank Namibia has taken additional measures to ensure it follows the World Health Organisation guidelines in containing the spread of the virus. 

“These initiatives include imparting requisite knowledge to all our staff on health measures, providing hand sanitisers at our branch entrances countrywide and the increased regularity of cleaning surface areas that are prone to regular and repeated use,” he added.

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