The boss of one of the country's largest banks has urged businesses hit by fallout from the coronavirus to get in touch sooner rather than later.
Westpac New Zealand boss David McLean said it had only had a dozen calls from businesses to its hardship line so far despite anecdotal reports that many businesses in the tourism, hospitality, logging and export sectors have been hit hard by the virus.
"Our main message is if you are feeling under stress talk to the banks early," said McLean.
He said while that may be a scary prospect it was easier for banks to help at an earlier stage than to wait another month for things to get worse.
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McLean was one of the bank bosses who met with Finance Minister Grant Robertson on Monday to give assurances that the financial system would still operate should New Zealand be hit by a wider outbreak of the virus and that banks would support their customers through the short-term pressures created by the virus.
He said Westpac had a comprehensive and detailed plan in place should the virus spread throughout the community that would ensure the bank could keep operating while ensuring its staff were safe.
Around one third of its approximately 4100 staff could work from home and the bank had been asking staff to take their lap-tops home to check internet access was working.
The bank has an off-site facility which staff can be moved to but McLean said unlike many traditional disaster situations the spread of the virus was not predicated on a building being unavailable.
In a power cut or earthquake organisations often need to move people to another facility quickly to ensure business continues as normal.
"This is different - the building is fine - it is the people."
He said the bank had plans for different scenarios depending on how widespread the virus became. "If it is going to spread like in Italy then it is a completely different scenario."
McLean said even if that was the case and a lot of people became sick then they would likely recover within two weeks and be back at work.
"The government and the Reserve Bank have really been very closely talking to all the banks to make sure we can keep the financial system going - that is critical."
McLean said in some situations bank branches may have to temporarily close and people may need to do their banking online or they may face a longer wait to talk to a person at the call centre if staff numbers were reduced due to sickness.
Around 21,000 people are employed across New Zealand's major banks.
A spokeswoman for ANZ New Zealand, the country's largest bank which has around 7000 staff, said cleaners in both its corporate and retail sites had been asked to be extra vigilant.
"Extra hand sanitiser and wipes have been provided for customers and staff where possible."
She said ANZ had a thorough plan to ensure it minimised disruption to its staff and customers as much as practically possible.
"There are currently international business travel restrictions in place for ANZ staff. We have also decided it is sensible for us in New Zealand to think carefully about non-critical domestic travel, events and large gatherings. We are using video conferencing, live stream, and online question and answer forums where possible to ensure we can continue communicating effectively with our staff and keep our business running."
It was also preparing posters for its branches encouraging customers who have been in contact with people diagnosed with coronavirus or have come from a country with travel restrictions related to the virus in the past 14 days to use its digital banking options instead.
A BNZ spokesman said it had also increased cleaning of its branches and partner centres, restricted travel and was supporting its staff to work from home.
"We have business continuity plans in place that include the potential of moving our people to different premises if the situation worsens, but we do not see any reason to enact them yet.
"While we have not taken the step to ban all travel, non-essential travel is prohibited."
The spokesman said it was a challenging time for many of its customers.
"We're supporting businesses around the country to manage their way through the impacts of coronavirus."
An ASB spokeswoman said it was taking guidance from the Ministry of Health and other sources where relevant.
"We are continuously reviewing all of our business continuity plans as new information comes to hand, to ensure they are fit for purpose, and ready to be used if needed.
"We employ a flexible working policy, with many of our non-frontline staff able to work from home."
She said some of the bank's customer were experiencing disruption because of Covid-19, and it was looking at ways to support them at this time.
"We would encourage anyone with concerns to come and chat with us."
The bank had also put in place travel restrictions for staff to countries which have been flagged as a concern by the Government.