Muscat: To limit the possibility of infection by COVID-19, the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) has allowed banks to temporarily close, provided they are able to meet the needs of their customers.
Measures that CBO issued in the country were detailed in a notice sent by Tahir Salim Al Amri, the body’s executive president, in which he said that while banks were allowed to close for the short-term, they had to put in place alternative guidelines to ensure their services were still accessible to the public.
“The decision to close down a branch should be considered after exploring the option of keeping branches open with curtailed services/restricted banking hours,” he said. “The availability of offsite ATMs/CDMs at a reasonable distance should be kept in view before deciding to close down a branch.”
“Banks should continue to provide the minimum critical services to customers of the branches, through online and digital channels, and alternate arrangements,” he added.
Customers whose branches are closed must be allowed to access services at other, nearby branches, while those in remote areas are not allowed to be shut. If a wilayat has just one branch, that branch must stay open as well. Call centre services and helplines linking customers to banks must be kept open, so that their complaints – if any – can be speedily addressed. Banks must also inform CBO of the alternative measures in place.
“A COVID-19 help page should be provided on the bank’s website and mobile app, wherein, amongst others, the list of branches and alternate arrangements should be indicated,” explained Al Amri. “Wherever branch services are provided, adequate safety/healthcare measures such as social distancing and crowd management should be in place to protect the staff and the customers. The health, age and vulnerability of the staff should be reckoned before deciding the staff who are to work at branches.
“Staff members who have been advised to stay at home or work from home should be treated as on duty,” the CBO notice went on to say. “Banks should assess the business/risk impact of the measures implemented since the outbreak of COVID-19 and take the needed actions.”