ATMs can become Covid ‘super-spreaders’, says gov – banks will need to obey new lockdown laws

Business Insider SA

Alert Level 3 Banks and ATMs
(Getty Images)
  • All banks need to ensure that their ATMs are equipped with hand sanitisers and that social distancing protocols are adhered to.
  • It’s estimated that 30,000 ATMs will need to be equipped to comply with the new Alert Level 3 regulations.
  • Banks which fail to comply with the new laws will be liable to fines.
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All banks in South Africa will need to ensure that their ATMs are equipped with hand sanitisers, in accordance with the new Alert Level 3 lockdown laws gazetted on Monday 11 January. Banks have also been tasked with implementing strict social distancing protocols at all ATMs.

South Africa’s fight against a second wave of coronavirus infections has led government to adjust regulations defined by the Disaster Management Act. The most recent revision, announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa during a national address on Monday night, has closed South Africa’s land borders, altered the curfew hours, and implemented a new regulation for all financial institutions.

A new mandatory protocol, which places the responsibility for hand sanitising and social distancing at ATMs firmly on the shoulders of all South African banks, now forms part of the Alert Level 3 regulations.

Banks will need to “ensure that all automated teller machines (ATMs) have hand sanitisers for use by the public” and “take steps to ensure that persons queuing at the ATM maintain a distance of one and a half metres from each other”.

Concerns around the unregulated use of ATMs, which, due to the constant physical contact with the machine’s keypad and limited social distancing for those waiting in line, were addressed by the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) on Tuesday.

“It came to our attention that people queue at ATMs but there is no sanitisation there,” explained Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

“So, the regulation now is that every bank or financial institution that has an ATM must ensure that there are sanitisers at the ATM. This is very important, because, if not, the ATMs could become super spreaders.”

Dlamini Zuma added that banks were “no different” to other institutions and would be subjected to the same penalties for failing to comply with the new regulations. These penalties include fines or imprisonment not exceeding six months.

According to Capitec, there are more than 30,000 ATMs, across all major banks, in South Africa.

Most banks have consistently urged account holders to sanitise their hands before and after using ATMs but, apart from machines inside branches, these sanitisation facilities have not been mandated and the responsibility has been placed on the public.

The same issues apply to social distancing. While queues are ordered to form at least two metres behind the ATM, as a means to protect clients from fraud, banks have struggled to enforce social distancing protocols at public tellers.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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