Spain’s Banks Worry Payday Brings Infection Risk to Pensioners

(Bloomberg) --

Spanish banks are worried that a flurry of visits to its branches this week could help propagate the coronavirus among the country’s most vulnerable demographic -- the elderly.

Many of Spain’s 9 million pensioners venture out to their branches around the 25th of the month to check that payments have arrived and perhaps draw a portion, as few use electronic banking. With over-70s bearing most of the brunt in mortality rates for the Covid-19 sickness, banks are scrambling to avoid a congregation at branches. One solution is for a family member to collect the pension at a cash point, but that brings its own hazard.

“There’s more and more operations being carried out via ATM and so those have become focus points of infection,” said Roberto Tornamira, a head of branches at UGT union. “They’re metallic structures where coronavirus survives for longer.”

Bankia SA will pay out pensions two days early to avoid a scenario of dozens of people queuing up at each of its branches. It has also sent out text messages to let people know when pensions have landed in their accounts. Banco de Sabadell SA is calling up its elderly clients to let them know their pensions are safe and that they don’t need to come to the bank.

Spain’s population has the longest life expectancy in the world and the novel coronavirus pandemic has been particularly brutal due to its oldest adults. The country’s demographics partly explain why it’s been one of the countries worst-affected in the world by the virus with more than 33,000 reported cases and 2,182 deaths.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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