To carry out basic essential transactions, the Indian Banks' Association (IBA) has asked banks to open only selective branches in areas that have been placed under lockdown across the country in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a late night communique to the heads of banks, the IBA requested the state level SLBC convenor banks and lead district managers to proactively consult the state administration to chalk out a feasible Business Continuity Plan (BCP).

India reported three more coronavirus deaths on Sunday, including the first casualties from Bihar and Gujarat, taking the toll to seven and the number of COVID-19 cases rose to 360, as authorities suspended all passenger trains and inter-state bus services till March 31 and more states imposed unprecedented restrictions to contain the spread of the infection.

"Keeping this in view, after due deliberation, it is suggested that member banks may selectively keep their branches open at such locations after due consultation with the local state government/authorities to carry out the basic essential transactions," the IBA said.

The association asked the CEO of banks to empower their regional or zonal or circle heads to take appropriate decision in the matter.

"State Level Bankers' Committee (SLBC) convenors should also take concurrence of the regional director of RBI for implementation of BCP prepared by them. The MD & CEOs of the SLBC convenor banks may take the lead in providing guidance to the SLBC convenor and member banks in the state for effective implementation of the contingency plan," it said.

The IBA asked all banks to prepare BCP for uninterrupted availability of banking services through alternate delivery channels for the convenience of the public and expressed hope that all the member banks will rise to the occasion to collectively sail through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier in the day, the association had asked customers to use online and mobile banking channels for making their transactions and avoid visiting bank branches as it could pose a risk to banks' front desk staff. PTI DP

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