Italian banks limit access to branches as second virus wave emerges

MILAN, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Italian banks are making their branches accessible to customers only by appointment to shield staff as Italy struggles to counter a new surge in coronavirus cases.

After declining over the summer, daily new cases have risen sharply in Italy in the last few weeks, reaching a fresh record of 16,079 on Thursday.

To curb new infections, some regions - including Lombardy, Lazio and Campania - have imposed nightly curfews and limitations for schools, shopping centres and amateur sporting events.

In response of the new COVID emergency, Mediobanca’s multi-channel bank CheBanca! said on Friday customers could access its branches only by appointment as of Oct. 26.

This measure is already effective for Intesa’s branches and will be extended, as of Oct. 26, to those of UBI Banca, which was acquired by Intesa in August, a source at the Italian biggest bank said on Friday.

State-owned lender Monte dei Paschi said on Saturday it had adopted new measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to operate, making its branches accessible to customers only by appointment as of Oct. 19.

Access to UniCredit branches by appointment is not mandatory but recommended by the lender, it said on its website.

During the last national lockdown, imposed between March and May, Italian banks closed down hundreds of branches, cut opening hours and curbed customers’ access to protect their employees from contagion. They gradually reopened to customers when lockdown was lifted. (Reporting by Gianluca Semeraro; editing by Steve Orlofsky)