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British banks fund supplies to help COVID-stricken India

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The Barclays logo is seen in front of displayed stock graph in this illustration taken June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

LONDON, April 30 (Reuters) - Barclays (BARC.L) has funded 1 million pounds ($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. read more

Employers in India have set up COVID-19 "war-rooms" to source oxygen, medicine and hospital beds for infected workers, Reuters reported. read more

"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. read more

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 (NWG.L) 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 (STAN.L) 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.

($1 = 0.7182 pounds)

Reporting by Lawrence White, Writing by Iain Withers Editing by Rachel Armstrong

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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