For over a month, banks have been providing limited services during the Covid-19 shutdown
With banks operating on a limited scale, clients cannot obtain all regular banking services at the moment – including the issuance of cheque books.
Hasibur Rahman, a customer of a private bank, told The Business Standard, "I have a small business and I need to make payments via cheque. Recently, my cheque book ran out. However, as banks are not providing new ones, I cannot pay my wholesaler."
Senior bankers said all banks are providing services on a limited scale for emergency cash transactions. As cheque books are an important instrument for cash withdrawal, these should be issued by the banks, they opined.
Dutch-Bangla Bank Managing Director AKM Shirin said, "We are providing cheque books inside Dhaka city. However, due to the unavailability of courier services, we cannot get cheque books to customers in other districts."
Syed Mahbubur Rahman, managing director of Mutual Trust Bank, said although they are issuing cheque books and cards, it is taking much longer than before.
"As we are providing limited services, we cannot provide all regular services properly," he added.
Mahbubur said, "Banks may fully open from next week. However, customers have to change their behaviour first. Otherwise it will be difficult to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus."
From Sunday, banks have been facing a lot of pressure as shopping malls have reopened and many economic activities have resumed. Customers were seen standing in long queues on footpaths in front of bank branches.
On Monday, more than 200 customers went to the Sonali Bank's Tejgaon industrial area branch to withdraw their social safety net allowance. The branch had to close to tackle the rush.
Mohammed Ataur Rahman Prodhan, managing director of Sonali Bank, said, "Customers are not trying to understand that they can still withdraw money two days from now. They all are gathering at the same time at our branches. We have asked law enforcement agencies for help."
The Gulshan branches of Dutch-Bangla Bank, Prime Bank, and the South Bangla Agriculture and Commerce Bank also had big crowds on Monday.
Bankers said that most of the customers had come to withdraw money as they had recently received their salaries. Some customers had come to withdraw deposits or profits of savings certificates to meet their Eid expenses.
For over a month and a half, banks have been providing limited services during the Covid-19 shutdown which started on March 26.
Now, during Ramadan, banks are providing banking services from 10am to 2:30pm.
A senior official of a private bank said that almost all bank head offices are closed. So, back-end operations have also become very limited. Auto-generated texts have been sent to customers who have failed to pay loan instalments, though the central bank has instructed banks not to charge any late fees or penalties for this.
For April and May, banks may not charge interest on existing loans.
Another senior official of a state-owned bank said that the central bank has instructed all commercial banks to remain open, but itself remains closed. So, banks cannot complete all official tasks that require the involvement of, or assistance from, the central bank.