StanChart Seeks Oxygen for Staff Amid Indian Covid Crisis
A medical oxygen plant and manifold unit at the Goregaon NESCO jumbo Covid centre in the Goregaon suburb of Mumbai. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

StanChart Seeks Oxygen for Staff Amid Indian Covid Crisis

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Standard Chartered Plc has been attempting to buy oxygen for workers stricken by Covid-19 in India, as the country’s healthcare system struggles to cope in the face of the world’s worst coronavirus crisis.

Chief Financial Officer Andy Halford said the London-headquartered bank was “actively” attempting to find oxygen concentrators with hundreds of the company’s 20,000-plus staff based in the country infected.

“I think we have got 800 cases currently of Covid and I think in total we have had some deaths among our employees in India to date,” Halford said in a phone interview after the bank published first-quarter earnings.

“We are actively out there seeing what we can do make vaccine more available, and particularly offer more locations where staff can get it,” he said. However, he added the bank was reluctant to use “connections that would be inappropriate.”

India has become the global epicenter of the pandemic, with more than 200,000 deaths and record-breaking daily caseloads. The surge in infections has led to widespread shortages of hospital beds and forced relatives to plead for supplies on social media.

Standard Chartered is one of the biggest international banks operating in India. As well as providing banking and wealth management services in the country it also operates major back-office hubs in Bangalore and Chennai.

Chief Executive Officer Bill Winters said the bank was looking to transfer work away from India to service centers in Kuala Lumpur, Tianjian and Warsaw. “We are looking carefully at how we can rebalance loads,” Winters told analysts Thursday.

“We have material case counts amongst our population, both in our services center and in the bank itself, consistent with what we are seeing across the country,” Winters said. “We’ve kept most of our branches open, banks are considered essential services, so we have had a disproportionate share of the cases in the branches’ staff, very unfortunately.”

Halford said that only about 10% of Standard Chartered’s India-based staff were currently coming into work. Winters said all staff employed in its Chennai and Bangalore sites were working from home.

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