Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI), one of the Caribbean region’s largest financial institutions, offers a full range of loans, microloans, and other services for individual entrepreneurs and organizations. Currently, the bank is prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of staff and customers during the current coronavirus pandemic.
To help contain the spread of the virus that causes the potentially serious disease COVID-19, GBTI has instituted a number of protective measures that cover activities in all its bank branches and over a range of transaction types. This is what you need to know about how GBTI is helping its customers during the pandemic:
GBTI Is Increasing Online Access
GBTI has informed its customers that they are now able to handle their transactions free of point-of-sale fees and automated teller machine charges. The bank has also increased its daily limits on ATM transactions. Finally, it is urging customers to use its high-quality online services—including a sophisticated array of mobile banking options—in place of handling transactions in person whenever possible.
GBTI Is Supporting Public Safety
In addition, GBTI has boosted existing safety procedures in brick-and-mortar locations. For example, staff at each bank branch now follow additional requirements for cleaning high-traffic surfaces. And at multiple service points in its locations, GBTI has displayed print notices and enabled video animations offering information on safety in public places during the pandemic.
In addition, the bank has decreased hours of operation at its branches. As of June 1, 2020, GBTI’s in-person banking locations will be open from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. GBTI aims to reduce its team’s work hours on-site as well. Finally, it supports the Guyana Association of Bankers’ recommendations on necessary social distancing for those who are at work.
GBTI Is Offering Loan Flexibility
GBTI remains committed to serving the needs of the business community during this crisis. Beginning March 26, and for up to six months thereafter, the bank is offering waivers of late-fee charges for credit card and loan payments. It is also offering waivers of penalty interest associated with loans, and is waiving penalties that would have accrued on the early withdrawal of funds from term deposits.
Customers in good standing are now also able to request a variety of loan- and debt-restructuring options, including lower interest rates and deferred payment plans.
Guyana Has Found Evidence of Community Transmission
In mid-May, the country’s chief medical team noted that community transmission of the coronavirus was evident, with significant numbers of new cases reported over the previous two-week period. At that point, more than 1,000 people living in Guyana had been tested.
One-third of those who tested positive for the virus were asymptomatic, meaning that they did not display any of the known symptoms of COVID-19. As the WHO points out, people who have contracted the virus and are asymptomatic are still able to shed the virus and transmit it to others. As of June 5, Guyana had documented only 153 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 12 deaths from the disease.
While the relatively low numbers can seem encouraging, world health experts point out that statistics from many countries in the developing world may be limited, and thus may not reflect the actual situation on the ground. While countries such as South Korea may be able to deploy extensive systems for testing and record-keeping, the developing world’s options are far less extensive.
Guyana Is Working to Improve Its Medical Infrastructure
Developing nations, including those in South America and the Caribbean, lack the medical infrastructure to quickly and accurately process coronavirus tests on a large scale. Additionally, they are often unable to provide adequate treatment and care for people who become infected.
For global public health experts, the big concern is that the developing world might see a surge of coronavirus cases at a time when it can marshal the least amount of resources to address the problem. Guyana’s Ministry of Public Health is working to overcome such challenges. For example, the ministry is supporting the development of a mobile app designed to help control the spread of the disease and offer information to the public.
Guyana’s government health team is currently working to bolster the country’s healthcare system in order to prepare for the long-term effects of COVID-19 on its society and economy. Part of this plan involves establishing mobile medical units in a number of locations, as part of a thoroughgoing network of services available to people living in all ten administrative regions.
Guyana Is Encouraging Individuals to Quarantine and Isolate as Appropriate
Workers in Guyana’s mining industry, who may be traveling from coastal areas into the interior, are especially encouraged to ask for medical help if they feel they have any of the symptoms of COVID-19. Miners already on site in the interior who experience symptoms should isolate in place, and should get into immediate contact with local medical professionals.
The country’s deputy chief medical officer continues to emphasize the importance of compliance with proper quarantine and isolation procedures. Everyone in the country should be prepared to put the health and safety of their loved ones and fellow citizens first, and act with a sense of public responsibility.
Sadly, about seven dozen Guyanese living abroad in the United States and the United Kingdom have already died as a result of COVID-19. Guyanese expats who have lost their lives to the disease include prominent business executives, political consultants, and public workers. The New York-based consulate of Guyana has listed names and posted tributes online.