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Anshuman Daga

Frontline Singapore bank staff to get COVID-19 vaccines

FILE PHOTO: A woman walks into a newly set up coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination center which will be opened to the public the day after, in Singapore January 26, 2021. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Staff at Singapore's banks engaged in key operations are being offered COVID-19 vaccinations, making it one of the first global centres to inoculate its financial services industry.

"Workers performing critical operations in systemically important financial institutions in Singapore have been invited to indicate their interest to be vaccinated," the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) told Reuters on Wednesday.

Local banks DBS Group Holdings, OCBC and UOB, regional lender Maybank and global banks HSBC, Citigroup and Standard Chartered are part of the vaccination drive, bank representatives and the central bank said.

The move follows the vaccination of most frontline workers in Singapore's healthcare and aviation sectors.

Singapore's central bank said its move was in line with the recommendations of an expert panel appointed by the Ministry of Health last year.

Bank workers being offered the vaccines include those involved in operations that enable the delivery of essential financial services and support, such as cash withdrawals and deposits, treasury management and payments, the MAS said.

"The vaccination programme will be rolled out to these essential workers in the financial sector in phases," it said.

It was not immediately clear when the vaccination drive for financial workers would begin.

The city-state of 5.7 million people has largely brought the virus under control with strict rules, mask wearing and contact tracing. Life has returned to near normal but with limitations on gatherings.

Last month, Singapore's health ministry reported "good progress" in its COVID-19 vaccination programme, which kicked off on Dec. 30.

"Our employees performing essential roles in critical operations have been invited to indicate their interest to be vaccinated under this programme," said Patrick Chew, head of operational risk management at OCBC Bank.

Around 73% of healthcare workers working in the public and private sector have been vaccinated with at least the first dose of vaccine and about 72% of frontline and essential workers in the aviation and maritime sectors have also been vaccinated, the health minister said in February.

Vaccines in Singapore are voluntary and free.

Some banks are giving their employees a day off and arranging virtual webinars with infectious disease experts to promote the benefits of the vaccines.

Olfert de Wit, chief operating officer at HSBC Singapore, said the bank had been invited by the government to nominate "employees who perform roles that are critical to the continued functioning of Singapore's financial sector".

Singapore aims to make vaccinations available to its entire population by the end of 2021.

(Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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