Egypt's banks told to limit withdrawals and deposits

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian banks have been instructed to apply temporary limits on daily withdrawals and deposits in a move seemingly designed to control inflation and hoarding during the coronavirus’ spread.

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The daily limit for individuals would be 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($635) and 50,000 pounds for companies, a central bank statement said, though businesses will be exempt from the withdrawal limits if the money is used to pay employees.

The central bank has also limited daily ATM withdrawals and deposits to 5,000 pounds, it said in a statement.

Central bank governor Tarek Amer said on a talk show late on Sunday that 30 billion Egyptian pounds ($1.91 billion) have been withdrawn from banks in the past three weeks.

“We found that individuals are withdrawing money from the banks although they did not need it ... they withdrew 30 billion pounds in the past three weeks. We want some discipline. We live in a society and we have to think of others,” Amer said.

The central bank has also urged people in the statement to limit their use of banknotes and to rely on electronic transfers and e-payments, adding that it instructed banks to cancel fees on transfers and e-payment methods “for the citizens’ convenience.”

“Not official, but I heard (it was designed) to control hoarding and inflation,” said one analyst who asked not to be named.

“This could reduce hoarding and panic buying and contain prices,” a second analyst said.

Egypt reported 33 new coronavirus cases and four fatalities on Sunday, bringing the totals to 609 confirmed infections and 40 deaths.

Egypt ordered mosques to shut their doors to worshippers for two weeks from March 21.

The Ministry of Islamic Endowments said on Sunday that it would extend the closure indefinitely.

Reporting by Ehab Farouk; Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy and Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Amina Ismail; Editing by Nick Macfie, David Goodman and Diane Craft