At yesterday’s Government press conference, the UK’s top scientist, Sir Patrick Valance, warned that the new strain of coronavirus is now “everywhere” in the country and the likelihood is that more areas will be moved into Tier 4 in the next few weeks. The Welsh Government has announced a Level 4 lockdown. He said: “The evidence on this virus is that it spreads easily. It’s more transmissible. We absolutely need to make sure we have the right level of restrictions in place”. According to scientists this ‘new’ variant is up to 70% more transmissible than earlier strains. Sir Patrick said that there was no evidence that this variant was any more deadly than the original strain but it’s being tested in Porton Down now.

In response to this new scientific data and the potential increase in cases, TSB has made a number of minor changes to its current approach including changing branch opening hours from 29th December and closing on Saturday 2nd January. Why is TSB waiting to reduce branch opening hours? Why are they still allowing staff to move between branches and why are face-to-face meetings continuing? In TSB it will still be possible to be working in branch A on a Monday, branch B on a Wednesday and branch C on a Friday. That policy is highly dangerous in the current environment and needs to be stopped immediately. If that means branch closures, then so be it.

The TSB changes don’t go far enough in protecting staff and customers.

Lloyds Banking Group has announced that when branches close staff will be able to go home and they don’t have to work back any hours or take holidays to cover contracted hours lost. This avoids Lloyds staff having to use public transport during the rush hour periods. Face-to-face interviews have been stopped with immediate effect. Mortgage Advisers can now work from home. And movement between branches will be reduced with staff working within their branch team.

TSB’s current approach is designed to reflect the fact that “the UK is still open for business”. In large parts of the UK things have closed down and the rest of the UK is likely to be shut down in the next few days. We are all being told to reduce our social contacts in order to stop the spread of the new strain of the virus.

TSB should go back to the original lockdown measures and reduce its opening hours and offering basic services only. There should be no local exceptions. “Basic” should mean “basic”.

We understand that many branches are now “Covid-secure” but when the virus is much more transmissible, the bank has a responsibility to discourage customer visits and limit staff time away from home. And the only way of doing that is by reducing opening times and limiting what customers can do. It’s only until the completion of the Government’s vaccine roll-out.  If this new virus gets out of control, the bank will be forced to do it anyway and it should take the responsible step now.

Members with any questions on this should contact the Union’s Advice Team on 01234 716029 (choose Option 1).

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