March 5, 2020 / 1:38 PM / a month ago

ECB tells banks to review continuity plans over coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: Specialists work on a crane in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt, Germany, January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo

MADRID (Reuters) - The European Central Bank has asked euro zone banks to review their business continuity plans and the actions they can take to prepare for and minimize the potential adverse effects of the coronavirus, a letter seen by Reuters shows.

In the letter dated Tuesday, the ECB asked banks to establish adequate measures for infection control in the workplace and ensure that they are ready for large-scale remote working of staff if needed.

The COVID-19 virus has killed more than 3,000 people and infected tens of thousands more, mostly in China. It has now spread to more than 60 other countries.

The ECB, which declined to comment, held a telephone conference on Tuesday to discuss its emergency response to the outbreak, but policy action was not on the agenda, five sources told Reuters.

The letter also told banks to proactively assess and test capacity of existing IT infrastructure in light of a potential increase in cyber-attacks and higher reliance on remote banking services.

On Wednesday the ECB’s executive board announced a range of operational measures to protect its own staff from risks associated with the spread of the coronavirus.

Spain’s BBVA decided on Thursday to transfer up to 100 staff from its Madrid trading floor to a location just outside the city as part of its contingency plan to protect operations from potential coronavirus-related disruption.

Other Spanish banks, such as state-owned Bankia, are also considering taking similar measures as required by the ECB, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

Reporting By Jesús Aguado; Additional reporting by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Jan Harvey

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