Khaza Hasan Chisty, a small business owner, yesterday spent more than an hour around noon at the Tejgaon branch of Dutch-Bangla Bank in the capital to withdraw cash so that he does not face any liquidity shortage during the hard lockdown starting from today.
He got a serial number of 40 as there was a massive crowd at the branch after the government ordered banks to close during the lockdown period between midnight of April 14 and the morning of April 21.
Although the clients had put on a face mask to prevent themselves from the coronavirus, it was not enough to maintain the health protocol given the huge crowd, said Chisty.
"I was terrified of the crowd, but there was no scope to avoid visiting the bank as I have to keep adequate cash in my hand during the lockdown period when banks will remain close," he said.
Like Chisty, thousand of others rushed to banks as well, after both the central bank and the government on April 12 ordered banks to keep all branches close from Wednesday, as the country has tightened measures to curb the spread of the virus.
In the afternoon, the government and the central bank backtracked from the stance, saying some branches will remain open during the restriction period.
Albeit a relief, the late decision frustrated Chisty.
"The authorities should have taken the decision two or three days ago to dispel confusion among the commoners whether banks would remain open or not."
Crowding in a small space creates risks in many folds to spread the deadly flu, he said.
As per the new decision, clients will be allowed to do banking from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. Branches will have to be closed by 2.30 pm after completing regular procedures.
Authorised dealer (AD) branches that carry out international transactions, including those for exports and imports, will operate as usual.
If any AD branch is not available in a radius of two kilometres in city corporation areas, a non-AD branch, which is dedicated to operating general banking, will have to be kept open.
Banks will keep their main branch in the district town open as well.
The branches in upazilas will open the doors for the clients on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The central bank had been in a fix on setting opening hours after the government declared the restrictions on movement on a limited scale on April 4.
On the day, the banking regulator said clients could settle financial transactions from 10:00 am to 12:30 pm on regular working days.
On April 11, the BB extended the banking hours by half an hour for April 12 and 13 as clients rushed to banks to withdraw funds, apprehending that branches might remain closed during the strict restriction.
Suddenly, the central bank extended the banking hours to 3 pm for yesterday so that clients could withdraw funds smoothly. It created confusion among people.
Salehuddin Ahmed, a former governor of the central bank, said there had been a lack of policy coordination between the central bank and the government.
"The government should have handed over the responsibility to the central bank to decide on banks opening hours," he said.
"The central bank should have declared a clear instruction two or three days ago to this end."