Scotiabank (Bahamas) has confirmed five branches have closed until after Easter as it moves to help the fight against the novel coronavirus's spread.
The Canadian-owned bank, in a note to customers, said four New Providence-based branches as well as its Freeport outlet will be shut through Thursday, April 9. Given that the following Friday and Monday are Good Friday and Easter Monday, respectively, are part of the Easter holiday weekend, the five branches will effectively be shut until April 14.
The four impacted Nassau locations are East Bay Street; Soldier Road and East Street; Wulff Road and Jerome Avenue; and Paradise Island.
Scotiabank's Bahamas branches that will remain open, albeit during reduced operating hours of 9.30am to 1pm, include the Nassau main branch on Rawson Square; Cable Beach; Carmichael Road; Palmdale; Thompson Boulevard; Georgetown, Exuma; and Nicholls Town, Andros. Its service centre in Buckley's, Long Island, will also continue to operate as normal.
The bank, in a statement, said the closure was designed to prevent staff and customers being exposed to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Roger Archer, Scotiabank (Bahamas) country head, added: "One message we want to be clear on is that we take the Government's messaging seriously, and are working to be responsible in that regard."
Scotiabank (Bahamas) thus becomes the second Bahamas-based commercial bank to announce temporary branch closures as part of measures to combat COVID-19. Its fellow Canadian bank, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), last Wednesday closed its main branch on Bay Street and the Mackey Street location.
And the moves came after Carl Bethel QC, the attorney general, last Tuesday warned that the government could get "very strict" by forcing banks to close their branch doors as part of efforts to combat the COVID-19m pandemic.
He argued that the availability of online and electronic banking channels, such as automated teller machines (ATMs) and debit/credit cards, meant Bahamian businesses and consumers were able to conduct transactions electronically rather than having to visit branches.
"We can get very strict," Mr Bethel warned. "Right now, for example, we could shut down all of the banks forthwith on the basis and understanding that most persons have some form or method of withdrawing cash from banks.
"There are deposit machines. ATM machines are both for the purposes of deposit and withdrawal, and the majority of workers in this country receive their payment via electronic means in any event. So these are all things to be considered if we are so advised by the medical practitioners.
"This is not something that the government is relishing doing. This is not something that we want to do," Mr Bethel added. "This is something that we are advised that we must do, and I can only emphasise to the general Bahamian public and all residents in this country the critical urgency of fully obeying all of the requirements of the national, nationwide curfew.
"It is critically important. We cannot have a policeman outside of every house. People must self-protect. The strongest human instinct is the survival instinct. Let us fall back to our gut instincts in this matter. This is not a matter to take lightly."
Banks remain on the list of businesses that are considered an "essential" service, and thus are exempted - at least for the moment - from the nationwide lockdown that the entire Bahamas has been placed under as efforts to combat the coronavirus ramp up.