British banks make donations for coronavirus medical supplies to help India

A Barclays bank building is seen at Canary Wharf in London, Britain.

Barclays has funded 1 million pounds (an equivalent of $1.4 million) worth of medical supplies for India in the last week, as British banks with big operations in the country increase support to their own staff and wider communities.

India’s total coronavirus cases exceeded 18 million on Thursday after another record number of daily infections added to the strain on overwhelmed hospitals.

Employers in India have set up COVID-19 “war-rooms” to source oxygen, medicine and hospital beds for infected workers.

“We are very focused on India right now, which is our second biggest employee location,” Chief Executive Jes Staley told reporters on Friday after the bank’s first quarter results.

Staley said Barclays – which has roughly 20,000 employees in India – had directed money from its charitable funds to partners in India.

Over the last year, it has also shifted some of the workload back to the United Kingdom.

British peer NatWest – which employs 13,000 people in India – also said it was providing support, including reimbursing people for COVID-19 vaccinations obtained through official medical channels for them and their family members.

NatWest on Friday told staff it had donated an additional 360,000 pounds to COVID-19 charities supporting countries including India.

Barclays and NatWest have also offered to match employee donations to COVID-19 vaccine charities. Standard Chartered has been trying to purchase oxygen for staff hit by the virus, a spokesman for the bank said on Thursday.

“We are very mindful that a number of employees need to stay home. We want to keep paying them, but allow them to help their families manage,” Barclays’ Staley said.

He said an increased number of calls from British customers in the pandemic had added pressure, but UK-based staff had helped out, especially in branches.

“Historically we have not used branch centre staff to take incoming call centre calls. We asked them if they would mind and they stood up. That’s an exercise we will continue past the pandemic,” he said.

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