March 20, 2020 / 2:35 PM / 13 days ago

Poste spreads out pension payments to contain virus contagion risk

MILAN, March 20 (Reuters) - Italian postal operator Poste said on Friday it would spread out pension payments over six days to avoid queues at its branches as Italy grapples with the coronavirus emergency.

Italy’s death toll from the virus overtook that of China on Thursday with 3,405 people dying since Feb. 20, when the virus outbreak emerged.

Two postmen working in northern Italy died from the infectious disease on Tuesday.

The government last week ordered the nationwide closure of restaurants, bars and almost all shops except for food stores and chemists, telling Italians to stay home except for emergencies.

Italy’s government has allowed companies to stay open provided they can comply with safety measures and urged them to have staff work remotely as much as possible.

Postal services ranging from mail and parcel delivery to payments of bills and pensions are considered essential.

Poste said that pension payments would be spread out between March 26 and April 1. The group, which is Italy’s biggest employer with 130,000 workers, also stepped up its general safety measures.

“Everyone is invited to enter a post office exclusively for essential operations,” it said in a statement, asking clients to wear face masks, enter the offices only after the exit of the previous customer and keep the one-metre safety distance.

Italian unions urged Poste Italiane on Wednesday to cut the number of people at work and make sure that all employees have face masks and plastic gloves. (Reporting by Francesca Landini, editing by Louise Heavens)

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