SINT MAARTEN/ST. LUCIA - Caribbean territories have joined the rest of the world in implementing a number of protocols to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months. These include wearing of masks in public, as recommended by the World Health Organisation.
But with the mass adoption of masks, business places, including banks and financial institutions, are faced with new challenges. Public health officials view masks as one of the best defenses against the growing novel coronavirus threat, but they can pose a totally different threat to security for businesses.
The Caribbean Association of Banks (CAB) Inc. has urged members and business interests throughout the region to be more vigilant, and to take on board the necessary measures to keep staff and customers safe, not only from the coronavirus, but from persons of ill intent. Businesses are encouraged to insist that customers wear masks. However, customers should be invited to de-mask briefly before entering the bank premises, for the purpose of identification.
This small step can go a long way.
Banks can add further layers of security by asking for basic information from customers upon entry to verify the identities of masked customers. Staff should be trained to look out for suspicious behaviour, and law enforcement should be contacted immediately whenever there is concern about suspicious individuals on bank premises. Limits can also be placed on the number of customers allowed to enter the premises at any given time.
"Our members simply cannot afford to take the health and safety of their employees for granted," explained Ms. Wendy Delmar, CEO of CAB. "But at the same time, we absolutely must do everything in our power to maintain security and uphold best practices. To that end, I implore banks to be more vigilant and to employ whatever measures may be required by their local health authorities to limit the spread of the virus, whilst doing what needs to be done to protect their assets."
Banks have been providing hand sanitiser dispensers to staff and customers, as well as installing social distancing signs and Plexiglas shields at teller stations. Online banking options and mobile phone apps have also been promoted more heavily in recent months, with some banks expanding the functionality of their online platforms to provide additional services for effecting payments and transfers.