75,000-strong bank staff request vaccines
By Buddhika Samaraweera
The Government has no plans to provide anti-Covid-19 vaccines to nearly 75,000 bank employees island-wide, despite the banking sector being declared an essential service, the Ceylon Bank Employees Union (CBEU) claimed.
When contacted by The Morning, the CBEU President Channa Dissanayake said that in the current situation which has arisen due to the rapid spread of Covid-19, bank employees who deal with a large number of customers on a daily basis are at a high risk of contracting the virus.
“Usually, a bank branch is located within a small space. The head office of any bank has a large number of employees. A large number of customers visit a bank daily and the employees touch certain documents and money they (customers) bring in. Under these circumstances, they are at high risk of contracting the virus,” he said.
Dissanayake also said that more than 400 bank employees had thus far been diagnosed with Covid-19, including in head offices of some banks – which have been temporarily closed in recent times owing to a high number of reported cases of infections – and that two of them had died.
“In view of this, at least the frontline employees of banks should be vaccinated, yet no arrangements have been made in this regard,” he said.
Further, even though bank employees in certain areas have been vaccinated during regional vaccination programmes, considering the prevailing situation, they are calling for the implementation of a programme covering all bank employees, he added.
According to Dissanayake, several written requests have been made in this regard to the President, the President’s Secretary, the Prime Minister, the Premier’s Secretary, and the Health Ministry Secretary Dr. Sanjeewa Munasinghe to prepare a programme to provide anti-Covid-19 vaccines to all bank employees.
When inquired about this from the Finance Ministry and Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle, he told The Morning that bank employees too have been vaccinated during the vaccination programmes held in the respective areas. Further, he added that the aim of the Government is to provide vaccinations to all those who are eligible for vaccinations and that accordingly, bank employees too will also be vaccinated in the future.
Several attempts to contact the Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Dr. Munasinghe, and the Epidemiology Unit Chief Dr. Sudath Samaraweera to inquire as to whether there are any plans to implement a vaccination programme aimed at inoculating all bank employees, proved futile.