Since the late Liberian diplomat, Patrick Sawyer, brought the Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, into Lagos on 20 July, 2014, and died from the disease on 25 July, 2015, various precautionary measures have been put in place by Nigerian banks to curb the spread of the deadly disease inside their banking halls.
Among measures adopted by banks in Nigeria include provision of sanitizers at the entrance of banks’ branches for customers to wash their hands, screening of customers or visitors for body temperature levels using infra-red thermometer prior to gaining access to banking halls and others.
Part of the aforesaid measures include banning customers with body temperature higher than the normal temperature range from entering the bank branch or building as the case may be.
However, the Guaranty Trust Bank, popularly called GTB, has taken a step further as it has instructed its staff not to offer customers the usual ‘you are welcome handshake’.
In other to sensitize its customers about the new measure, posters containing the new measure and others already put in place are displayed conspicuously at entrances of the bank’s branches in Lagos.
According to the contents of the posters, the ban on handshakes is put in place “in view of the recent outbreak of Ebola virus in Nigeria”.
“In particular Lagos state and in support of precautionary measures being put in place by States and the Federal Government to contain the spread of the Ebola virus,” the directive read.
The directive did not end without seeking the cooperation of the bank’s customers as it stated: “Thank you for your understanding and banking with us”.
It would be recalled that banks in the northern state of Kaduna had also some weeks ago started screening customers before letting them in.
The banks started adopting the measure less than 24 hours after one suspected case of Ebola Virus Disease was reported at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
Reports stated that customers were asked told to wash their hands before being allowed into banks.
However, after tests where run on the Ebola suspect, the results came out negative, health workers informed.
Also, it was reported about two weeks ago that WEMA bank sent a notice to its customers that all customers and visitors to any branch of the bank would be required to use the hand sanitisers and be scanned for symptoms of fever before being admitted into their banking halls.
“In the wake of the recent Ebola Virus Disease outbreak across West Africa, we are compelled to introduce the following preventive health and safety initiatives at all our business locations in order to ensure a safe banking environment for all customers and staff,” the bank stated.
Apart from these measures, some of the bank workers at the branch were also seen wearing hand gloves and mouth coverings at their teller points.
However, the federal Ministry of Health said it was not informed of the move, considered by some as discriminatory.
A health campaign organization, Projekthope, believes that some of the new measures adopted by Nigerian banks are discriminatory.
“We should all learn to do things right. The presence of Ebola symptoms does not necessarily mean transmission will take place,” said Steve Aborisade, who heads Ibadan-based Projekthope.
“And even if we want to be hyper proactive it should be sensitive in ways that will not be discriminatory and which actually stops transmission which is our first purpose.”
A medical expert said the bank should go beyond screening and make adequate referral arrangements for customers who may be turned away due to their health.
“I don’t think we should see it in the light of a discriminatory policy, I think they are just trying to act on the side of caution,” said Osahon Enabulele, the immediate past president of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA.
“The end point should be to aid the referral of such an individual to the nearest health facility for appropriate treatment. And of course, I expect that they should have a medical unit in the bank to quickly evaluate clients that may have suspicious features to properly evaluate them and not just to turn them away,” Mr. Enabulele said.
According to the Minister of Health, Dr. Onyebuchi Chukwu, the Ebola virus has killed no fewer than seven people in Nigeria.
Also, a recent report of the World Health Organisation, WHO, indicated that the disease has killed more than 2225 people since the new outbreak started in West Africa in February, 2014.
Apart from Nigeria, other West African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak are Liberia, Guinea , Senegal and Sierra Leone.