MUSCAT: The Central Bank of Oman (CBO) has allowed banks in the country to temporarily close its branches, provided it must ensure the availability of services to customers without disruption.
The decision from the apex bank comes after it received requests from banks for closure of certain branches to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
In a circular issued by CBO’s Executive President Tahir Salim Al Amri on Sunday asked banks to put in place alternative guidelines to ensure their services were still accessible to the public. “Banking services as you will appreciate, are critical for individuals, businesses and the Government, assuming greater significance in challenging times. Hence, decisions to close down branches, even temporarily, are to be handled by banks prudently, keeping in view, the cutomers inconveniences and the need to ensure availability of banking services without much disruption,” Al Amri said.
According to Al Amri, the decision to close down a branch should be considered after exploring the option of keeping branches open with curtailed services/restricted banking hours. “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.
Branches in remote areas should stay open
However, 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.
“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,” Al Amri added.